In this month’s Lasallian Volunteers “Ministry of the Month,” The District of Eastern North America is featured. The ministry is The San Miguel School of Providence in Providence, Rhode Island. The Lasallian Volunteers are first-years Jin Su Seo and Maddi Larsen, both graduates of Saint Mary’s College of California.
WHAT IS THE SAN MIGUEL SCHOOL OF PROVIDENCE?
The San Miguel School of Providence is a private, independent Lasallian middle school for urban boys from the Greater Providence area. The school is dedicated to the belief that education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Students experience a school culture that emphasizes citizenship, service and personal responsibility in a caring learning environment where academics are rigorous, expectations are high, and individual talents are nurtured. Students grow into young men with a positive vision for the future that leads them to effect positive change in their lives and in their communities.
HOW ARE JIN AND MADDI SERVING AT SAN MIGUEL?
Jin is a long-term substitute teacher, tutor and coach. Maddi works in Graduate Support. She also helps to coordinate the Providence College Mentors and assists with support of the school.
HOW DID MADDI AND JIN BECOME LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS?
Both Jin and Maddi are graduates of a Lasallian college and were mentored by former Lasallian Volunteers when they were discerning joining the program. Jin says, “I wanted to see if teaching as a profession was the right fit for me. Another aspect in becoming an LV was that I wanted to live in and explore a different part of the U.S. I truly believe in the Lasallian mission and the services the Brothers provide. The concept of a quality education is an important value for me. In today’s society, the education tends to stop after the classroom. The Lasallian Volunteers concept of education goes beyond the textbook with the idea of shaping the entire individual, a holistic education. Personally, this value reminds me that I’m not only shaping them as a student, but to become an overall better human being.” Maddi shares that her work at Saint Mary’s Mission and Ministry office helped her to become an LV. She says, “I was surrounded by future and former Lasallian Volunteers. I had watched older co-workers graduate and join the program, and I had listened to the stories of LV Alums, such as the scholars that worked in the office (Chay Tanchanco, LV 11-13, and Yolanda Franco, LV 14-16) or from staff members (Carrie Davis, LV 96-00, and Karin McClelland, LV 90-92). I heard so many stories of former LVs yet never considered serving, but for some reason when I heard their stories and the details of their lives in service this time around, I felt like this was something that I should do. When I let myself out of my head space and into my heart space it became more and more apparent that I was meant to become a Lasallian Volunteer. When I received and visited my site it became very clear that this was exactly what I was being called to do.”
HOW DO JIN AND MADDI TOUCH THE MINDS AND HEARTS OF THOSE ENTRUSTED TO THEIR CARE?
Both Maddi and Jin are concerned with helping the young men entrusted to their care to break the cycle of poverty that they might find themselves in. Maddi says, “At San Miguel, we are trying hard to break this cycle both while they are at San Miguel as well as after they graduate. We empower them by providing guidance and counseling. We open them up to talk about what they are experiencing (or soon may be experiencing) and give them ways to help promote a healthy lifestyle. Graduate Support also plays a role in this by keeping a pulse of our boys as they move into high school and beyond. We have an Academic Resource Center twice a week to let them come back and get their grades up so that they can graduate high school, we try and catch up with them and provide them with what they may need so that they can succeed.” Jin says of his service, “My students don’t need me to be a miracle worker in the classroom or this fantastic teacher. Being present at basketball games, school dances and other school functions has such a big impact. Not only does it show that you care for the students, but you are invested in who they are beyond the school setting. For most of our students, they lack stability. By being present every day, they can rely on you and be that one constant in their lives.”
HOW HAS LIVING WITH THE DE LA SALLE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS IMPACTED MADDI AND JIN?
While both volunteers interacted with the Brothers at Saint Mary’s, they both believe that you can only truly know people when you live with them. Jin says, “I think being involved with the Brothers has made me a more optimistic person. We live in a crazy world, and sometimes we believe that this cycle of poverty and hate can’t be broken. However, I witness people every day serving the Lasallian mission, which brings hope that change is happening.” Maddi said of her time in community, “I have been able to see what being a Brother is really like and have been able to build relationships with some of them. This involvement with the Brothers has allowed me to challenge my views of what it means to be Lasallian and Catholic. It has allowed me to delve deeper into myself and find my core values. At Saint Mary’s, I always viewed the Brothers as higher than myself. Through my involvement with them as a volunteer, I am able to view them as equals.”
WHAT DOES THE 2017-2018 COHORT WANT TO SAY TO COLLEGE SENIORS ABOUT LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS?
Maddi and Jin both encourage a year of service. Maddi says, “Applying to do a volunteer year is scary, especially when you don’t know where you might end up or what you might be doing. You have to trust in yourself, in the Lasallian Volunteers staff, and in God’s Providence. I was nervous going through the application process, but once I got my placement and did my site visit, I knew that Rhode Island was where I was supposed to be. I always thought the phrase ‘when you know, you know’ to be really cliché, but when it comes to giving a year of your life to serve, it truly works.” Jin said, “Although it has done a lot professionally for me, I have to say that it is not my biggest takeaway this year. My biggest takeaway is being surrounded by like-minded people who want and encourage you to grow. You are going to meet some of the most selfless people throughout the year who truly want the best for you.”