As I walk down the streets of the Tenderloin, I am confronted by my shocking surroundings. I hold my breath, keep my eyes down, and try to become invisible as I walk. Used needles, feces, and discarded clothing are the physical barriers. Homelessness, drug dealing/using, and prostitution are the societal barriers that I face on my walk to work. When I finally look up, I see students in uniforms, smiles a mile wide. They have arrived at their school, their safe haven. I walk inside the building, and I am greeted by the warmth of the people. Everyone that serves at De Marillac Academy is there for the purpose of faith, service, and community. No matter the role, everyone is here to help the students reach their full potential.
As I am about to walk up the stairs to my classroom, I am engaged by the bold words of, “Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve,” the foundation of the Lasallian Mission. Starting with children at the age of nine, these students are exposed to the concept of serving others. They are deeply rooted in the values of compassion and gratitude. My students are the visible angels that this world needs.
I asked some of these visible angels to reflect upon the meaning of “Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve.” Their reflections are why I choose to serve as a Lasallian Volunteer and live out the Lasallian Mission.
A fifth grader wisely said, “You should serve others because it is the right thing to do, not because it makes you feel better.”
Another fifth grader reflected, “We serve our homeless neighbors by being kind to them. We can be a miracle for them.”
A sixth grader expressed, “We should all give the gifts we have received to serve others as faithful people of God’s grace.”
An incredible eighth grader said, “You enter to grow in knowledge and leave to serve others with God’s knowledge. When we enter as students the faculty serves us, and when we leave it is our chance to serve them.”
Another sage eighth grader reflected, “When we leave, we take the values and virtues we learned from school and take them to the world to show others what they can be and how to be their best. We need to be role models for others. We need to serve the communities who have served us.”
These students have taught me so much about how to be Lasallian. At such a young age, these students have developed the skill of perseverance. They display gratitude for what they have and are compassionate to those who have less. They understand that they need to be educated so that they may be the catalysts to help change their community. Technically speaking, the teacher is usually the role model for the students. But every day I come to school, my students become my role models, living out the Lasallian Mission in all that they do. These visible angels are the guiding light to a better word.
Samantha Hyland is a 2nd year LV serving at De Marillac Academy in San Francisco, California and is a 2014 graduate of La Salle University.