It’s around 7:20 a.m. when I arrive at school. I look up to see a smile on one of my student’s faces as we make eye contact. That is a reminder of why I am here. Moving to Philadelphia was not a difficult decision nor was it hard for me to leave home, as someone who has always wanted to “spread their wings” and explore the world including the states as much as possible, I knew this was for me. Sure, being away from my mom and uncle plus friends would be a little lonely but it was never a “goodbye” just a “see you later,” and despite the time change I’ve somehow managed to stay in touch with them, even if it is only once in a while. I am thankful that everyone back home is understanding, plus they are also busy working, but we manage to make the time even if we have to set a date on our calendars.
Since my first site visit to Philadelphia in the summer, I knew instantly this was the place for me to be and that feeling has not changed. Sure, there have been quite a few late nights serving and students constantly testing my patience but at the end of the day, I do what I do for them. I have created some wonderful relationships with a few of my students that I would not trade for the world. Their smiles and laughter, their personalities, that is what keeps makes my heart so full and keeps me smiling. I’m not going to lie, the majority of the time I need to be alone at the end of the day and decompress because some days can be harder than most but when I arrive at school and it is 7:20 a.m. again, my students’ faces are a reminder of why I choose to serve. The relationships I have with my students and the relationships with the faculty and staff at La Salle Academy are what keeps me thriving. I love being able to talk and make jokes with them, hearing about what’s going on in their lives and vice versa. They all make Philadelphia a second home.
Davina Runkaputi is a first-year volunteer serving at La Salle Academy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is a 2018 graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga.