January: The San Miguel School of Providence

In this month’s “Ministry of the Month” we are featuring The San Miguel School of Providence in Providence, Rhode Island, which is part of the District of Eastern North America. Sarah Sprinkle is a first-year LV and a 2019 graduate of Villanova University. Kaiyun Chen is a first-year LV and a 2019 graduate of Manhattan College.

 What is The San Miguel School of Providence?

The San Miguel School, a Lasallian middle school, provides a high quality, holistic education for boys from diverse and challenging backgrounds. In a caring, safe and structured environment, the school fosters a spirit of mutual respect and brotherhood among all students. Educators walk with their students and families throughout their educational journey at San Miguel and beyond. Inspired by the pillars of faith, service and community, each “Miguel Man” is encouraged to learn, to serve and to grow to reach his full potential.

How did Sarah and Kaiyun learn about Lasallian Volunteers?

Sarah learned about Lasallian Volunteers through Villanova’s “Post Graduate Year of Service Fair” and while she did not initially apply to the program, she had it on her radar while exploring what would come next after graduation. Kaiyun learned about Lasallian Volunteers through her involvement in campus ministry and social action at Manhattan College. The formation opportunities offered at Manhattan College encouraged her to continue to explore her Lasallian identity by applying to serve as an LV.

What are the services Sarah and Kaiyun provide at The San Miguel School of Providence?

Sarah shared, “What I love about serving at my ministry site is the variety of tasks I get to jump into. Though my job description revolves mainly around Graduate Support, the essence of San Miguel being a small school invites, encourages and otherwise requires each of us on board to wear many hats. I love that I get to, on any given day, help coordinate our school breakfast program, serve as in-class academic support to students, teach a remedial math class once each week, supervise lunch and recess periods, and assist with eighth grade students’ applications to high schools, all while monitoring the academic progress of our graduates and helping with the needs of alumni as they arise.” Kaiyun serves as academic support. “I assist in the fifth to eighth grade classrooms, I work one-on-one or in small groups with students as a tutor, and I am an advisory math teacher. However, being an LV means we take on many different roles, so I also work as a librarian, I help create the bulletin boards around school, I chaperone field trips, I prefect breakfast, lunch, recess and dismissal duties. I am also the front-desk receptionist, the co-leader of the Lasallian Youth group, and any other duties assigned. I love my job because I really get to work with the students and know them well through the various interactions, I have with them inside and outside the classroom.”

Which of our core values of Lasallian Volunteers is most important to Kaiyun and Sarah?

For both Kaiyun and Sarah they see the core value of community being most important for them. Kaiyun, shared, “Community has always been one of the cornerstones in my life. I realize that I love, learn and live with communities that help me discover who I am. Service and faith are important values, but community allows us to serve and support one another and find faith in the process. With the Lasallian Volunteers program, I find myself to be a part of a community, not only with the volunteer and Christian Brothers that I love and live with, but also with other LVs and co-workers that I get to learn from every day. We are all a part of this Lasallian community driven toward the same mission of service with faith. Sarah shared, “Even as this year continues to unfold (and there is still much of it to unfold!), I’m coming to see the importance of community. It’s so important and continually humbling to realize how little I am capable of as one person, but how much a community is capable of. Community is important because it is a living, breathing tool for learning, reflection and personal (as well as corporate) edification. We learn from one another, are encouraged and supported by one another, and are conduits of grace, forgiveness and love to one another when we share in community. Essentially, I’m continuing to learn that community is the core value that can encourage and allow for each of the others to flourish.”

What is the most important thing the students Sarah and Kaiyun work with need from them?

“My students need consistent presence from me. Our students come from a variety of home and neighborhood environments that may be characterized by uncertainty, irregularity or various unknowns that might pertain to meeting or not meeting daily needs,” Sarah shared. “My showing up, every day, prepared and ready, communicates to my students that I care about them. It sets the tone for clear expectations, accountability and respect, all of which are key pieces to their success as students inside the classroom and as individuals beyond it. Even more so, my consistency of effort, attitude and presence supports the larger mission for which each of us at San Miguel work and are a part. Essentially, it communicates my support of the overall mission at San Miguel. Once our students know we are committed to the mission-driven work that is transforming them, our school community becomes more unified and is, because of that, strengthened.” Kaiyun agrees with Sarah’s identification of the need for presence, “I think that the most important thing my students need from me is to be present. To be present physically and show up to work every day, show them that I am a part of their lives. To be present mentally and show them that I want to be a part of their lives. To be present and present them with a smile on both good and bad days. While these students are such God-given presents to me, I want to be present for them.”

How has living alongside the De La Salle Christian Brothers changed Kaiyun and Sarah?

Kaiyun shared, “Living with De La Salle Christian Brothers has been one of the most impactful experiences from the program. I find myself grateful every day for the people I come home to. There are times when I am not the most present community member as I wish I can be. However, the Brothers will always remind me, through words and actions, that we are showered with gifts. The gift of smiles we greet every day, the gift of the presence of each other, the gift of a warm meal and the gift of another day.” Sarah said, “Living with the Brothers has been awesome! It’s been really life-giving for me to share in community together with the Brothers. I continue to be particularly inspired by their experiences and their commitment. I’m amazed by how the Brothers give their lives to the charism of De La Salle and living with them has revealed to me the day in, day out commitment that builds the lifelong commitment that they are known by. They have, for years and years, given of themselves to something far larger than themselves, and I’ve already seen the testimony and example of this impact my own faith life and shape the vision I have of who I want to become. I also think it’s sometimes easy to consider those in vocation to religious life as just their vocation. It has been really fantastic for me to learn from the Brothers as Brothers, but especially great to learn from them and get to know them as individual people. I love making the Brothers laugh, hearing their stories and sharing in community with them!”

What would Sarah and Kaiyun offer as advice to someone discerning a year of service?

Sarah shared, “I would say give it some thought! It’s a really rewarding experience to be involved in community, be challenged to grow and to have an opportunity for experiential learning. It’s not a decision that you should feel rushed into, but it’s definitely one to consider. There are a ton of opportunities to serve after graduation that span different geographic regions, type of service work, specific populations served and even religious affiliations. For me (and even my friends from college who ended up committing to different volunteer programs), it’s all about finding the right fit. Read about the program(s) you’re discerning, connect with current or former volunteers and open up the application. The questions volunteer year programs put in their applications can reveal a lot about their own values and what they’re looking for. In the end, find the right match, a program that you’re going to be both comfortable in/with and able to be challenged by (that’s where growth really happens!).” Kaiyun responded, “The transition from college to the work-field is difficult. This is something that you have probably heard many times before. Yet, only you can experience it, and no one else can tell you how lost you can become in this transitional period. Going into a volunteer year really is a big commitment, but it is totally worth it to take this challenge with courage and love. You will find yourself supported, loved and inspired by the people around you on this journey as a Lasallian Volunteer. Then, you will find yourself no longer a college student, but you are an individual rooted in faith, service and community.”

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