Katie O’Leary: Comfort in Community

Katie O'Leary, 15-17, De La Salle Academy, Concord, CA

Katie O’Leary, 15-17, De La Salle Academy, Concord, CA

Do you ever just walk into a building (such as a school or a church) and just feel immediately comfortable? Something about the whole vibe of the place puts you at ease. It could be the smell, the colors and paintings on the walls, or the people who are in it.

Every Lasallian community that I have been a part of has given me this same sense of security and comfort.

I am from Chicago. I went to a Catholic grammar school (or for those outside of the Chicagoland area – grade school, k-8). When it came time for high school, I knew that I was going to a Catholic high school. However, Chicago has quite a few to choose from. It was similar to figuring out which college to go to, but way less serious. I toured and shadowed a couple of the schools throughout my 8th grade year. The tours were blah, the students I shadowed were blah; I just didn’t care for any of them.

I specifically remember the day that I toured De La Salle Institute in Chicago. It was around Thanksgiving. I don’t remember who my tour guide was or any specific people from the tour, but I remember how I felt. It wasn’t blah. I felt so comfortable. I went home that day knowing that I would go to “D.”

Katie O'Leary and Emily Vogel

Katie O’Leary and Emily Vogel

Attending De La Salle Institute was one of the most transformational experiences in my life thus far. Ms. Emily Vogel, LV 99-01, introduced me to Lasallian Youth and invited me to become more deeply connected to the Lasallian Mission. It was during that first introduction that I realized at my core I was already Lasallian, even before I knew the word; I felt deeply connected to the five core principles and I met some great people, who were also actively living out the Lasallian mission.

During my time at DLS, I participated in a “Lasallian Youth Gathering (LYG)” in the summer of 2010 to Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. It was my second LYG and I was so excited to be going to a new state and seeing some friends from the previous year. When I first stepped onto campus at Saint Mary’s, I fell in love. The bluffs, being surrounded by nature, and the pond; everything was serene.

I went back for tours and overnights in my junior and senior year, to see how I felt when school was in session. I remember feeling right at home while walking around with my host. I pictured myself in that hustle and bustle of going to class or to lunch, talking with friends, going to the library for homework.

When it came time to choose a college to go to, I was stuck between Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois and Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona, Minnesota. I kept going back to the safe, comfortable, homey feeling that I felt when I was at Saint Mary’s. Even though I had things in Chicago that would be hard to leave, I took the chance and I am so glad I did. I had incredibly giving, knowledgeable professors who taught me how to be a Lasallian educator. I also met my best friends whom I could share my excitement for the Lasallian Mission with.

Katie 2Fast forward to a more recent experience. As I was going through the application process for Lasallian Volunteers, I was anxious to hear where I would be placed. I found out I would be teaching in an all-boys middle school in Concord, California. I was so excited to be going somewhere new. When it came time to do a site visit, I was incredibly nervous. Living in California was the easy part, I was more nervous about being an actual teacher.

Those nerves soon faded after arriving at De La Salle Academy. To my surprise, these young men, were welcoming and gentlemanly. I had never seen or heard of kids shaking hands so professionally before. I immediately felt completely comfortable and eager to start my journey at this school. It also helped that I had some amazing and gracious hosts in both Concord and San Francisco! After that short visit, I knew that I had a new home in California.

Each of these Lasallian communities that I have been a part of all had 2 things in common:

  1. I instantly knew it was where I was meant to be.
  2. I met people that would transform and complement my life as well as people who made me more passionate to be Lasallian.

In all of the Lasallian communities that I have been a part of, I have had people that made it special and “magical” for me. These people were a huge reason that I felt a strong sense of comfort and community. I hope that I can foster this sense of comfort and community for my students and those that I encounter.

Katie O’Leary is a first year LV serving at De La Salle Academy in Concord, California and is a 2016 graduate of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

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