In this month’s “Ministry of the Month” we are featuring San Miguel High School in Tucson, Arizona, which is part of the San Francisco New Orleans District. Savannah Mattox is a second-year LV and is a 2018 graduate of saint Mary’s College of California. Albert Chic is a first-year LV from Barcelona, Spain, and is a 2019 graduate of La Salle Ramon Llull University Barcelona.
What is San Miguel High School?
San Miguel High School in Tucson, Arizona, is a Catholic, Lasallian learning community that empowers youth from underserved families through the integration of Christian values, rigorous academics and practical work experience, educating the whole student for college, career and a fulfilling life. At San Miguel, students take a full college preparatory course load while simultaneously holding internships, working in corporations and earning nearly 40 percent of their school tuition. The Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP) at San Miguel gives students the opportunity to form new identities as citizens and professionals who have bright futures.
How did Savannah and Albert learn about Lasallian Volunteers?
Savannah shares, “My decision to become a Lasallian Volunteer was a serendipitous ordeal from the jump. Ultimately, I became a volunteer because people close to me (both current LVs at the time as well as Mission and Ministry Staff) urged me to consider applying. I was not ready for graduate school—there was so much I had to learn and experience outside of the walls of the classroom and being a Lasallian Volunteer allowed me to do so with an LV staff who is focused on accompaniment and my holistic growth.” For Albert, his experience is a bit different. He shares, “It just simply made sense for what I was looking for. When I was finishing college, I was discerning about my different options. Despite the fact that I studied business I was not attracted to go working in an ordinary office like it was expected. I couldn’t find any purpose on it. I have always liked to volunteer helping youth, my options were international volunteering programs in communities in need over the world. I was looking for a job to start working in the social sector in a job where I could see a purpose, values and positive impact. But you know what? I was visiting one of the Brothers, just to say ‘hi,’ and as we were talking, he said you should consider this program, I think is what you are looking for…And he was right, everything made sense. I was going abroad, serving in a community in need and with the Lasallian charism, which I had experience of. Moreover, some months after coming this is the place where I want to be right now with my students, the school and my community. It just felt right.”
What are the services Albert and Savannah provide at San Miguel High School?
Albert serves as the seventh period coordinator, which students opt into as part of their academics each semester. For example, students can take part in photography, robotics, and other activities that are structured by the faculty and staff at San Miguel that may not be part of the course offerings, but the faculty and staff, as well as the students, have an interest in. Albert also serves as the Lasallian Youth director. This role allows him to connect students with service opportunities and promote the Lasallian mission at San Miguel. Just recently, Albert organized activities for Lasallian week and International Lasallian Days for Peace. Savannah serves as the El Otro Lado border immersion* assistant and Kino Teens moderator. As the El Otro Lado border immersion assistant, Savannah helps facilitate largely educational, service-oriented, immersions across Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico to provide a multi-perspective glimpse at the many facets of the complex humanitarian crises along the Southern Border as people are fleeing from sending nations to seek asylum in the United States. Kino Teens is a club at San Miguel High School that provides students an opportunity to accompany deported migrants, participate in educational activities with an emphasis on understanding the stories of migrants and the complex issue of migration, and to defend migrant rights through advocacy.
Which of our core values of Lasallian Volunteers is most important to Albert and Savannah?
Savannah and Albert both identify service as the most important core value to them. Savannah shares, “The service component of our core values is most important. At San Miguel, our students, people we meet with who are seeking asylum in the United States, humanitarian aid organizations we collaborate with—these networks are what fuel my spirit and my passion for advocacy and social justice. Fostering relationships and establishing community within the realm of service I’m a part of is an incredible facet of my position.” “I have always had this commitment to serve and to be next to the people that are in need,” shares Albert. “When you see people struggling, you realize how fortunate you are, that there is always something that you can do for the good of the people around you. At the end of all of my experiences of volunteering I have always received much more compared to what I gave. Serving is like that, is when we all remove our armors, our ego and our most human essence arises with kindness, humility and love enriching others.”
What is the most important thing the students Savannah and Albert work with need from them?
“Solidarity; a network of support that is concerned not only with accompaniment, but truly with listening,” shares Savannah. “Hearing their truth, their experiences, their thoughts, with the intent of understanding versus always trying to respond ‘perfectly’ or with the aim of ‘fixing.’” Albert shares, “Mainly, my presence, listening to them, being there and bringing kindness to their days. Especially during adolescence if you are with them, they will really appreciate it because it is a time where they are discovering and learning about themselves more and more. They really struggle. Moreover, these students, some of them, they go through hard situations that make them grow up too quickly or take on adult responsibilities too quickly. And that really affects them in their way of being. Whenever I do in my activities and try to create an environment of openness, peace and respect. So, they can forget about school and appreciate more simple things discovered through service with others and ultimately, themselves.”
How has serving with and living alongside the De La Salle Christian Brothers changed Albert and Savannah?
Albert responds honestly sharing, “We could say that it shaped me in a way that I couldn’t expect at all. It’s just, I admire them what they represent to the school, their commitment and their spiritual enrichment. They are really unique human beings to learn from. It has been some months but thanks to this experience of community and the kind of involvement I’m getting with the school, I’m discovering myself in a really special way that I would never have had the chance before.” For Savannah, the Brothers have impacted her understanding of commitment. Savannah shares, “They have taught me what it means to live in community, to live out the agreement and commitment we’ve made to each other as a squad to be present and a source of support for one another. Additionally, being involved with the Brothers has taught me invaluable lessons about being invested in community also means investment in holding one another and ourselves accountable.”
What would Savannah and Albert offer as advice to someone discerning a year of service?
“I would absolutely (biasedly) say ‘DO IT!!’” shares Savannah. “Volunteering is an incredible opportunity for a longitudinal commitment to social justice, holistic growth of self, explorations of passions, security in terms of housing and income-based loan payment during terms of service, community-building, living in new spaces/locations than what has been ‘normal’ for you. The list is endless for the reasons one should consider a volunteer year. I would also implore someone to ask themselves, in a spirit of radical honesty, if they are prepared (mentally, emotionally, spiritually/energetically) to emerge themselves in these aforementioned components. Volunteering is so much greater than oneself; there is commitment, discipline, and responsibility in all facets of saying ‘yes’ to a year of service: from long days/evenings, to moments of financial stringency that comes with simple living, to being game for ‘other duties as assigned’—are you ready for these changes? If the answer is anything besides ‘yes!’ or ‘I am willing to learn and try it out!’ One may want to ponder it a bit longer and weigh what is possible for them.” Albert responds similarly sharing, “From the beginning volunteering is a special commitment that you do for an organization, a mission, a project… that you feel passionate or aligned with. It’s an experience of being open minded, of giving but also receiving a lot of external inputs to process. However, I think it’s really important to make sure that you want to do this kind of experience because you will be willing to open your heart and soul to those in need that you are entrusted to help. Importantly, there is no right time to do this, you can always do it but think about how it feels for you? Am I emotionally ready? Am available in terms of time? Just be realistic so when you compromise you do it with what you can at that moment. Help will be always appreciated.”
*El Otro Lado, which means “the other side,” is a U.S.-Mexico border immersion program that takes place in El Paso, Texas, and Tucson, Arizona, and provides Lasallian students from around the Lasallian Region of North America with the opportunity to explore the U.S.-Mexico border and learn about the many complexities surrounding immigration. Through the various program components, the program allows students to interact with humanitarian aid groups, government officials and those directly impacted by U.S. immigration policy. Discussion and prayerful reflection are key components of the five-day program. El Otro Lado is one of the Beyond the Borders initiatives of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Beyond the Borders is a response to reach those in need, one that is rooted in mission and history, influenced by Pope Francis, and grounded in calls from the 45th General Chapter. The Beyond the Borders initiatives, promoted by the Institute’s Solidarity and Development Secretariat, are projects located throughout the world that serve those most in need.