In this month’s Lasallian Volunteers “Ministry of the Month,” the Midwest District is featured, highlighting the Lasallian Volunteers serving at San Miguel Middle School of Tulsa in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Lasallian Volunteers are Rachel Bowers, LV 16-18, and Madison Chastain, LV 17-18. Rachel is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and Madison is a graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California.
WHAT IS SAN MIGUEL TULSA?
San Miguel Tulsa is a co-educational middle school in the Kendal-Whittier neighborhood of Tulsa, dedicated to helping children from challenging environments, regardless of race, nationality or religion, to achieve academic and personal success through a non-tuition driven, Lasallian education. 90% of the students will go on to graduate high school (compared to 76% of students in Tulsa Public Schools), 97% attend school daily, and 100% of parents attend quarterly conferences with staff.
HOW DID RACHEL AND MADISON BECOME LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS?
For Rachel, she encountered the Lasallian Volunteers through her brother, Dan Bowers, LV 14-16. She says, “My brother was a Lasallian Volunteer, and he suggested the idea to me. I was unsure of what God had in store for me next as a college senior, so I figured what the heck! I gave it a shot and have had absolutely no regrets. My experience has been filled with blessings and I must say, I am hooked on being Lasallian!” Having attended a Lasallian college, Madison felt called by her work at Saint Mary’s in Mission and Ministry. She says, “Having gone to a Lasallian college, the charism was really near and dear to my heart and I knew I cared about contributing to the mission of educating those in need. I’ve had many friends go through the program and I believed it could be a place where I could be useful and give of myself for the sake of others.”
WHAT SERVICE DO MADISON AND RACHEL PROVIDE AT SAN MIGUEL TULSA?
Madison is a 6th, 7th and 8th grade religion teacher. Rachel serves as the physical education teacher. Both volunteers are responsible for academic support in the mornings (where students can receive one-on-one assistance during class if they need extra help or a quiet place to work). Both volunteers are study hall supervisors and Madison is the after-school choir instructor. In the fall semester, Rachel and Madison coordinated San Miguel’s first ever BizKids Student Entrepreneurship after-school program designed to teach middle school students business skills and prep them for a presentation during which they pitched an original cooperative business model idea.
HOW DO THESE VOLUNTEERS TOUCH MINDS AND HEARTS AT THEIR SERVICE SITE?
Many of the students come to San Miguel grade levels behind academically. This means that the teachers and students must be creative in getting the students caught up in time to go to high school. Rachel believes that combining her roles in academics and physical education helps her students find success. She says, “I enjoy when my P.E. role and academic support role blend into one; this allows me to pull struggling students from the classroom who may just need 10 minutes of playing soccer and debriefing a situation to brighten their day.” Madison says, “These kids need patience, to feel like the weight of their words is valued, to feel like they belong, to be listened to, to be pushed to know more than they think they can. Isn’t that what anyone wants? Mutual respect and empathy are the backbones of all of these things.”
HOW HAS LIVING WITH THE DE LA SALLE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS IMPACTED MADISON AND RACHEL AS LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS?
Rachel’s experience with the Brothers began in Tulsa, although she visited her brother Dan at his community in Chicago. She says, “Having support from Christian Brothers as I serve and live the ways of Saint John Baptist de La Salle has been awesome. They have years of experience living out faith, service and community; three values that I have recently been introduced to. Whenever I feel like I may be struggling, the Brothers remind me that there is nothing wrong with that, that it is okay to not be perfect. I see them as role models. Living with the Brothers has allowed me to recognize that they are a lot of fun too!” Madison had interacted with Brothers at Saint Mary’s, so she knew many before she came to Tulsa. She says, “The Brothers have hobbies, senses of humor, express love in particular ways, are aging like all humans do, were raised in certain ways, and they each participate in the mission of the Founder in unique ways. No two Brothers are the same, and no two interpret their vocation the same. Each of us is a different kind of “Lasallian” and there’s room for all in the mission.”
WHAT DO THE VOLUNTEERS IN THE 2017-2018 COHORT SAY TO COLLEGE SENIORS ABOUT THE LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS PROGRAM?
Both volunteers encourage seniors discerning a year of service to think about applying to Lasallian Volunteers. Madison says, “I became a volunteer because I didn’t want to jump straight into graduate school and never have experienced true, selfless giving of myself to others. Giving of myself is crucial to me and serving has yielded the deepest rewards in this experience. Service is not easy; I went into it thinking it would be much easier than it is. But I stay for the kids. I stay because they deserve a really good, committed religion teacher who is passionate about them learning the material.” Rachel says of her experience, “Serving at any of the Lasallian ministries would be an eye opening, life-changing, and unforgettable experience for any post-grad who is looking to volunteer. Be open to opportunities where you may be serving a new culture, living in a part of the country you would have never expected to, or generally stepping outside of your comfort zone, because ultimately you will discover yourself and who God wants you to be in the process.”