April: Fordham Bedford Community Services

Our April Ministry of the Month highlights Fordham Bedford Community Services, which is located within the District of Eastern North America. Julia Mach is a second-year LV and a graduate of Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois.

What is Fordham Bedford Community Services?

Fordham Bedford Community Services (FBCS), a non-profit organization founded by the Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation, is committed to serving the children and families of the Northwest Bronx and its surrounding areas. FBCS seeks new and innovative ways to strengthen families by providing a variety of programs and services. In partnership with the community and other local not-for-profit organizations, FBCS is addressing the ever-changing needs of a community that has long been neglected.

How did Julia learn about Lasallian Volunteers?

Julia first learned about Lasallian Volunteers through Lewis University ministry her sophomore year of college. Julia shared, “I was very active in doing service trips and I asked about Lasallian Volunteers because I thought it was another type of service trip, but then I was told it was something people chose to do after they graduated from college. Seeing as graduating from college seemed like years away for me as a sophomore in college, I put it in the back of mind until my junior year when someone came to talk about Lasallian Volunteers in one of my education classes. It was interesting to hear what the current Lasallian Volunteer was doing, and I liked the idea of being able to live somewhere outside of Illinois, but I still had a year. Fast forward a year later and I was senior in college with an uncertainty of the future, there was a Career Expo at Lewis University. I went and Lasallian Volunteers had a table and after hearing about it for the third time, because third time is always the charm, I decided to apply for Lasallian Volunteers.”

What are the services Julia provides at Fordham Bedford Community Services?

Fordham Bedford Community Services offers resources to neighborhood youth that they may not otherwise have gotten due to economic instability and low resources at their schools. Julia shares, “Monday through Thursday from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., we provide an after-school tutoring service for first to seventh graders. Students from Manhattan College and Fordham University serve as volunteers or can be hired on for work study to tutor the younger students. I oversee the day-to-day services and work to support the students’ education achievement through tutoring. This requires me to be familiar with each student’s academic and personal needs so that the staff can be guided in working with each student. We also provide College Access programs on Mondays for high school sophomores, juniors and seniors. We partner with New York City Cares, which provides trained tutors to help with students in small groups. The program is designed to provide intense tutoring in math, reading and writing, which helps students excel on the SAT test. I help to recruit, interview, accept and monitor students as they go through the various College Access programs. Beyond these programs, I assist with other day-to-day functions and duties as assigned.”

Which of our core values of Lasallian Volunteers is most important to Julia?

“Community is most important to me because your community is who you go home to everyday, and they hear your successes, losses, frustrations and everything in between. There is no else who will understand you as much as your community will because those in your community will be or have experienced a lot of the same feelings and thoughts that you are going through in your year of service,” shares Julia. “They become your family away from home. For a lot of the volunteers, anytime you step into a Lasallian community it is like you are coming home because you know that there are people who care, want to know more about you, and are willing to support you. I also think it speaks volumes when you can go into a new community and because you know this or that person within the Lasallian community, the new community treats you as if you are a long-lost family member.” 

What is the most important thing the students Julia works with need from her?

Julia jokingly says, “The most important thing my students need from me is an afternoon snack!” She continues, “Though they do tend to eat me out of house and home, but I am always happy to give them a snack. Beyond food, my students need to know that I am there for them. As much as I push them and pester them to get their work done or tell them to calm themselves down, they all know at some level that I am there for them whether it is not leaving them alone when they have a bad day, constantly asking them questions about their grades, homework and life until they answer me, or coming to me when they are not feeling well. I believe that for any student or client, it is being consistently there for them because sometimes you are one the few people they will see consistently within a day, week and, even, month.” 

How has living alongside the De La Salle Christian Brothers changed Julia?

“I was not sure what to expect when I signed up to live with De La Salle Christian Brothers. Before Lasallian Volunteers, I did work closely with a Christian Brother at Lewis University’s Writing Center who gave me the royal Christian Brother treatment of joking around with me, while having heated debates about all things English related,” Julia shares. “But as Brother Chris always told me, you know when a Christian Brother likes you because they will joke with you until no end, while also pushing you to be your absolute best. I have really enjoyed living with Brothers and while they all have their quirks, you learn how to accommodate to the needs of others in your community while learning just how big of hearts the Christian Brothers have for those they serve and their community.”

What would Julia offer as advice to someone discerning a year of service?

“Do it! Simple as that,” Julia says, “You will be pushed outside of your comfort zone and you may at times be pushed to your limits, but you will grow stronger because of your experience as a Lasallian Volunteer. You will grow as person and, hopefully, it will help you to realize what is important to you in life.” Julia reflects, “I came into Lasallian Volunteers unsure if I was even in the right profession and, in my two years of service, I have learned that while I enjoy teaching, I much prefer being an advocate for students by providing them resources and helping them beyond the classroom. People always tell you it is about the journey, not so much about the destination. I believe Lasallian Volunteers is a great addition to anyone’s journey and will get you better prepared for next part of your journey.”

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