In this month’s Lasallian Volunteers “Ministry of the Month,” the District of Eastern North America is featured. The ministry is LaSalle School in Albany, New York, and the Lasallian Volunteers are first-year LV Christopher (Chris) Lackey and returning volunteer Krystiana Schaffer. Krystiana is a 2017 graduate of La Salle University, and Chris is a 2018 graduate of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.
WHAT IS LASALLE SCHOOL?
Founded in 1854 by the De La Salle Christian Brothers to serve abandoned and orphaned boys, LaSalle School is a multi-faceted human services agency. A talented and dedicated staff of more than 200 work with a daily enrollment of 230 adolescent boys and their families in Residential Treatment, Day Education, the Specialized Treatment Program, the After-School Center, and related programming. In addition, outpatient appointments are now being accepted at The Counseling Center at LaSalle. Located in the Pine Hill’s neighborhood of Albany, LaSalle’s main campus co-exists with residences, businesses, public schools, colleges and universities. Over the last decade, the agency’s facilities have benefited from an extensive program of renovation and new construction, providing an excellent environment for learning, living and working. Today, the work of LaSalle extends well beyond the residential campus. Nearly two-thirds of the youth in care live in their own communities and homes. An emphasis on the development of enhanced education, aftercare and preventive services has proven to be a natural complement to the strong program of residential care LaSalle proudly traces to its origins 160 years ago.
WHAT SERVICE ARE CHRIS AND KRYSTIANA PROVIDING AT LA SALLE SCHOOL? Chris is a campus minister and recreation worker. In his role as campus minister, he brings students to different ministries around the Albany area. As a recreation staff member, he puts on activities for students when they are out of school such as football games, bike rides and camping trips. Krystiana is part of the admissions team at LaSalle School. She assists in the admissions process beginning with the referral made by an outside agency, down to the happenings the day the youth come into the school for care.
HOW WERE KRYSTIANA AND CHRIS INTRODUCED TO THE LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS? Both volunteers are graduates of Lasallian universities in very different areas of our Region. They share a common belief that they were being called into a deeper connection with the Lasallian family after college. Chris says, “I became an LV because I could not see myself anywhere else. One thing I knew for certain leaving college was that I knew I wanted to stay connected to the Lasallian community. I love the spirit and charism of Saint John Baptist de La Salle and wanted to keep growing and learning in that. I also felt I heard God’s call to the Lasallian Volunteers stronger than any other place. I looked at other ministries, but my prayers just did not seem to lead me any other place.” As a second year, Krystiana echoes this when she says, “I think I decided to serve as an LV because I strongly believe in the Lasallian mission. No matter the ministry, no matter where I am in the world, I can feel the core values in everything we do. I want to be someone who helps to share those values with the greater Lasallian world.”
HOW DO CHRIS AND KRYSTIANA TOUCH THE MINDS AND HEARTS OF THOSE ENTRUSTED TO THEIR CARE?
The young men at LaSalle School come to them having experienced trauma. Chris and Krystiana, along with the other staff, are called to reach out to them with care and consideration no matter what. Chris says, “These young men have suffered in their short life from very traumatic experiences and troubled lives. So, what we are taught in how to help these young people is to do your best to create a relationship with them and show them you care so you will have the privilege to be with them when they are struggling the most. At the heart of this I find Saint John Baptist de La Salle’s words as well as the core values of Lasallians. I try to remember if you approach an emotionally traumatized young man with love remembering that he is God’s child, you can transcend all that trauma!” Krystiana says, “I believe each person is of value to our society and deserves to be treated in such that they feel dignified, seen and listened to. I have a deep appreciation for the way we as Lasallians see each other holistically. What I have learned at LaSalle School is that positive relationships are at the core of transformation. I believe that starts with being seen, and you do that by showing respect. Most of our young men have faced severe adversity in their short time on earth. LaSalle School is in the business of using therapeutic relationships and supports to elicit personal growth.”
HOW HAS LIVING WITH THE DE LA SALLE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS IMPACTED KRYSTIANA AND CHRIS?
As Krystiana and Chris both went to Lasallian universities, they had experience with being taught by De La Salle Christian Brothers. As a second year, Krystiana says of being in community with Brothers, “Being witness to the Brother’s dedication to the mission is truly inspiring. It is not always easy to be of service to others, but these men have shown me how to navigate the co-existing worlds of service and community while starting each day ready to give to others your best self. It is not every day you get to sit at a table filled with hundreds of years of experience. The wisdom they have imparted on me is a gift I will forever be grateful for.” Chris reflects on his time so far in community when he says, “Living in community with the Brothers has impacted me by truly trying to live in the presence of God. Trusting in His Providence every day and trying to recognize Him in all peoples and things is truly life giving.”
WHAT DO 2018-2019 LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS WANT TO SAY TO COLLEGE SENIORS ABOUT LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS?
Both volunteers at LaSalle School have encouraging things to say about serving with Lasallian Volunteers. Krystiana says, “The fact that you are even considering a year of service means that you are mission driven and care a great deal for your fellow man. A service year will test you, push you, and stretch you in the best ways possible, and you will come out stronger and a better person. In your dedication to social justice and the service of persons in need, I bet you will find the person you become through that experience is someone you are proud of.” Chris offered this, “You will get something out of it if you put your whole self into whatever it is you are doing. So, do not be afraid to take a leap!”