Service Site: San Miguel School, Chicago
University: La Salle University in Philadelphia, PA.
What do you do?
At San Miguel I am an 8th grade Math, Science, and Reading teacher, and I Co-Teach 6th grade Math. I coach 7th and 8th grade co-ed soccer, 6th grade girls’ basketball, and 7th and 8th grade girls’ softball.
What is the most important “thing,” do you think, that your students need from you?
The most important thing that I believe my students need from me is my presence and just being there for them. The students at San Miguel come from a place where they might not always have someone paying attention to what they are doing, or being able to support them fully.
As a staff member at San Miguel, the students are my number one priority and I make sure every single day to acknowledge their presence in my class, at lunch, or even on the field. Whether it is making sure I call on every student during science class, playing dodgeball against my class at recess, or even staying late to attend games for teams I am not coaching, I try my best to make sure my students know that I care about each and every one of them. I want nothing more at the end of my volunteer year than to see all my students succeed. The best way to see that success through is by being there to encourage and be present for them the entire journey.
Was there a moment when you felt accepted by your students?
San Miguel does an amazing job at providing students a chance to leave the classroom and go on different trips to grow in community with their teachers and one another. In October, I along with three other staff members and the 8th grade class went to Camp Gray, a catholic camp for kids, in Wisconsin. We stayed for three days and two nights and did various group bonding activities. I was very excited for this trip because I was curious to see the students outside the classroom and eager to bond with them on a different level.
At Camp Gray I felt like I was a different “Mr. Bowers.” I got to be myself and let my
teacher guard down and really just have fun with my students. The moment I felt most accepted by them was when it was my turn to climb the rock wall. I have never ever enjoyed climbing rock walls–they hurt and I usually never make it to the top–but by the encouragement of my students I said I would give it a try. As I started to climb, I came to the realization that this whole getting to the top of the wall was not going to happen. After I stopped a few times and slipped a couple of times I was about to quit. However, the whole class started to cheer for me and encourage me to keep going. They continued to yell at me from down below and told me, “You didn’t let us quit you better keep going.” At that moment I realized that they were right. I realized that they were accepting me as not just their teacher but as someone in their life they need to look up to. I was not about to just “quit” on them. So, I climbed to the top of that rock wall, rang the bell, came down and thanked every single student for believing in me because it was their acceptance and their encouragement that made me realize I truly was a part of their San Miguel family.
If you could project ahead a few years and look back to now, how do you think your experiences with those you serve and with the brothers will have changed you?
If I could get in a time machine and move forward a couple years and look back on my time thus far as a Lasallian Volunteer all I would be able to do is thank God for such a unique opportunity. The opportunity to pause my life where it was and serve a population I would probably not have even come in contact with is tremendous. Being a Lasallian Volunteer has slowed my life down drastically over the past 7 months and helped me to realize not only who I am now but also whom I want to become moving forward.
From every Let Us Remember, to every Live Jesus in Our Hearts, serving in a Lasallian school and living in a Lasallian community has helped me to realize my true passion in life. My passion is being Lasallian. Although I have always thought this, the year of service has made me more sure than I ever could have been a year ago. Because I have been a Lasallian Volunteer my life truly has been changed for the better.
What would you say to a friend from home who questioned why you chose to live with the Brothers?
After being taught by the Christian Brothers for 8 years, the best answer I could give to why I would chose to live with the Christian Brothers is, “why not?” I have always looked at the Christian Brothers as extended family members who just love to joke around and have a good time. However, for as much fun as they like to have they also have even more wisdom and advice to offer. Living in community with the brothers this year has given me not only more laughs than I could have ever imagined, but also more advice and wisdom than I would have ever expected in a year of service.