Two years to last a lifetime; that is what I would call the Lasallian Volunteers experience. It is an experience that many do not get to have and I am happy I got to have it. Moving from Philadelphia to Providence, then from Providence to my home, New York City, to volunteer has been quite the journey. I have done various tasks—some that I had expected and some that I did not. I have memorized many names and faces of my students so I can get to know them better; I have embarrassed my students by dancing at school dances; I have chaperoned countless field trips; and I have given much advice. Where I am now, the Academy of Mount St. Ursula (AMSU) in Bronx, New York, they say, “Four Years to Last a Lifetime.” I knew that once I heard that, the experience here would be great and meaningful, and it definitely has been.
Every time I sit down to reflect on my time as an LV, a wave of emotions overcomes me. “Has it really been two years already?” Going into the program I remember being very excited to go to a new state and work with students in a small setting. Working in Providence, Rhode Island, was such a blessing in my life. Though I didn’t return to Providence for my second year, it is an experience I will never forget. I learned classroom management; I learned how to help kids when they were in crisis; I became a school nurse; and I made some awesome bulletin boards. The biggest lesson and blessing I received was being a coach. I was able to coach players on how to find right footing, stay humble and be good sports.
It wasn’t until one of our last games that one of my players did a move, and I was in awe. This child did a move that I specifically taught him, and made him practice until he perfected it. I remember hearing one of the other players on the bench say, “Coach, you taught him that!” My work as a coach had paid off, and I couldn’t have been happier. That memory will definitely last a lifetime. As the days went by, and my year at the school was coming to an end I would take every moment in. Laughing with the sixth graders, playing knockout with the fifth graders, teaching seventh grade social studies and playing basketball games with the eighth graders. These moments will forever be in my heart. Hearing students say, “you are someone I can talk to” will still be the highest compliment I got in that school. I said one last goodbye to my students, wished them the best of luck in the future, and moved from Rhode Island back home to New York. Safe to say I was crying the entire way home.
Arriving at Brother Charles Kitson Institute for Formation of Lasallian Volunteers (Kitson, for short) as a second-year volunteer was very interesting. I was a “role model” all of a sudden, and some of the first-years asked me advice for their first-year as an LV. I enjoyed Kitson a lot this past year and made a lot of great friends. I know that my first year serving was challenging but I received countless support from friends at Kitson and during the service year. Living in community with four great people made it even better. I am a firm believer that the relationships I developed while being a Lasallian Volunteer will last a lifetime. All my friends supported my next journey to the Academy of Mount St. Ursula, which is where I currently volunteer, and all I can say is thank you for believing in me when I couldn’t.
Walking up the giant hill the first day was something that took my breath away (mostly because I was out of shape). I couldn’t believe that I was finally here! I was nervous, excited and pumped to start a new service year. I walked into my morning cafeteria duty, and had to approach a bunch of students, whom I had never met before, and tell them to turn off the rap music… That did not go over well with them. It is a moment I will never forget. I was not liked the first few weeks, because I was under the impression I was supposed to take cell phones away during lunch and in the morning they weren’t allowed to play music. These things changed over time, but September was “the worst.”
As the months went by I became the coach for the AMSU Lady Bears. I was an assistant coach last year in Providence, and now this year I was a head coach for the girls. I learned a lot of lessons this season. 1) Rest before a game, because if you don’t you and your team will not do so well. 2) Think of a new play every game because then the opponent won’t know what hit them. 3) It is okay to admit you are wrong, but it is also okay to be tough and make the players run whenever they don’t listen (or do pushups, whatever works better). 4) Make sure you give a high five to every player at every practice. Trust me they will remember it.
Even though the team and I had our ups and downs, we still had a successful season. We didn’t win a championship, which I cried about, but we had a winning season. As a first-time coach that says a lot. I supported and gave everyone on the team a chance, and they gave me a chance as well. This so far is my greatest achievement in my life. (I’m only 23 years old so it might not say much). The days of practice and hard work, me playing with them to show them how to do a move and handle a ball… Those memories will last a lifetime. This is an experience that I surely will never forget.
With COVID-19, my time was cut short at AMSU. I was truly enjoying the year, and I didn’t know my last time seeing the students would be March 13th. I learned from this lesson how to grieve loss of students, and having to say hard goodbyes. Last year wasn’t enough, now I have to say goodbye to a whole new set of students. Students who really left an imprint on my heart. I had a chance to help lead retreats and tell my story. I had a chance to experience being a guidance counselor, and I had the experience of working at a school that truly cares for its students. The students at AMSU are wonderful, and they will all make great leaders one day. I think that the thing that will last a lifetime the most is the way these students made me feel. I was appreciated and valued as an educator, and I made sure those students were also appreciated and valued.
As I end my years as a Lasallian Volunteer, I am thankful for everyone who has come in and out of my life. The friendships I made, the students I met, and the colleagues I worked with; I really want to thank them. If you happen to be reading this, and wondering if you should be a volunteer, I say take a chance because you have no idea where that chance will lead you. You might have ever-lasting experiences just like I did. Being a Lasallian Volunteer is an experience unlike any other because I learned a lot of professional skills, made lifelong friendships, learned how to become a leader, and learned how to become a better educator guided by Lasallian values. And, trust me, that will definitely last a lifetime.
Jubilee Aguilar is a second-year volunteer at Academy of Mount St. Ursula in Bronx, New York, serving as a basketball coach, administrative assistant and youth minister. She is a 2018 graduate of La Salle University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with a degree in secondary education and history.
Read Jubilee’s Shared Blog post from her first year of service here.