Our October Ministry of the Month highlights DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Maximillian (Max) Conrad is a second-year LV and a 2019 graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga. Pablo Cardenal is a first-year LV and is a 2020 graduate of Boston College in Boston, Massachusetts.
What is DeLaSalle High School?
DeLaSalle High School opened in 1900 as the first Catholic high school in Minneapolis. Administered by the Christian Brothers since its inception, “De” has been co-educational since 1971-72. Over 15,000 men and women have graduated from DeLaSalle, which is still located on historic Nicollet Island, within walking distance of downtown Minneapolis. Today, DeLaSalle educates students from over 120 Twin Cities elementary schools, from as far away as 30 miles in each direction. Still the only traditional college prep Catholic high school within Minneapolis, De is also the most diverse private high school in Minnesota in terms of ethnicity, socioeconomics and family background.
How did Max and Pablo learn about Lasallian Volunteers?
It was during his time at Boston College, that Pablo realized he wanted to do a year of service. He says, “Doing a year of service was something I knew I wanted to do since my junior year of college. The retreats and service/immersion programs I did throughout my four years were some of my most formative and insightful experiences. Through such involvements, my faith and friendships have strengthened. I knew that I wanted to continue learning, growing and being challenged through a service and faith lens, so I had a feeling doing a year of service could serve as a great opportunity. One of my resident ministers during my freshmen year, talked to me about LVs. He had been an LV himself, and the way he talked about his experiences were filled with so much passion and joy. Because of him, I decided to do some research on my own, and learn a bit more about the Lasallian mission. The Lasallian charism and its emphasis on education for all clicked, and the rest is history.” For Max, the decision came about through discernment from his college experience at Saint Mary’s. He says, “I was first introduced to the Lasallian charism and the Christian Brothers during my time in college. I was deeply moved by the generosity and dedication of the Brothers and their Lasallian Partners to quality education for all. Education has always been of great importance to my family, so I saw much congruence between the mission of the Lasallian Volunteers and my own hopes for justice and change in the world. I see Lasallian Volunteers as a way to not only express my profound gratitude to the Brothers, but to pay that forward in a meaningful way.”
What are the services Max and Pablo provide at DeLaSalle High School?
Max is on the learning center staff. He assists the learning specialist in providing accommodations and assistive technology to students with documented learning disorders and other challenges. Pablo serves in campus ministry, facilitating the faith life of the school through retreats, service opportunities, and other Lasallian formation opportunities for both students and faculty as well as an advancement assistant.
Which of our core values of Lasallian Volunteers is most important to Pablo and Max?
Both volunteers agree that faith is the most important value for them during their service years. Pablo shared he feels that faith is the most important value because it informs the other two values for him. He says, “Through my faith and prayer life I am able to reflect and have an optimistic and proactive attitude toward the service and community that I am engaged in. Whenever obstacles present themselves, I go back to my faith to feel comforted and reenergized. I am also able to practice gentleness and patience on myself. In short, faith is my nucleus, and through that I am able to become better on the other two core values. Max shared, “A positive and hopeful outlook can work wonders these days, and I’ve focused lately on cultivating a sense of optimism through faith. It hasn’t been easy of late, when we’re constantly beset with doubts and challenges that appear daunting. But finding moments of joy in the spaces that we share has been reinvigorating. To have faith in these times is to trust one another and work to acquire peace in mind, body and spirit.”
What is the most important thing the students that Pablo and Max work with need from them?
For Pablo, his presence and engaging in active listening is the most important thing he can offer his students. He says, “High school students need mentor figures to look up to in order to become wiser, kinder and more confident. The most important thing I need to do to students is letting them know that I am here for them. I need to be attentive, intentional and present. Providing a listening ear can be so powerful because many of these kids want to feel like they are being seen or heard. It is important to foster such mentorship relationships, and that is what I hope to provide to them.”
For Max, he feels his students respond best to encouragement. He says, “The most important thing that they need from me right now is the encouragement. The past month has been a whirlwind for everyone involved, and it will still take a little getting used to. I’ve found that one of the simplest things I can do to support the students I work with is to recognize their efforts and celebrate their accomplishments. I think it’s key for students, perhaps now more than ever, to have a ‘cheerleader’ to keep them going. I’m like a cheerleader who also gives you audiobooks.”
How have Max and Pablo adjusted to COVID-19 at DeLaSalle High School?
DeLaSalle is using a hybrid model, which means that half of the students attend school in person on a rotating schedule. This means that the volunteers have to maximize their in-person meetings with students. Max says, “I’ve been blessed to have in-person meetings with students, but I’ve found that this new model has also shown me the utility of technology in education. More importantly, it’s shown me just how important it is that the technology serves the best interests of the students. There’s been a big demand for audiobooks lately, so I’ve been exploring different ways that students can benefit from that.” Pablo shared, “One way I have engaged with students during these times is by being extremely intentional with the time I have with them. If anything, we have to stay more engaged during these times because students need it. They need those mentorships and spaces to feel heard and seen amidst the chaos. So that means I have to find creative ways to reach out to students and be there for them. The work I do is in the school’s campus ministry, and we are currently creating spaces for students to have fun, interact and be in community.”
How has living alongside the De La Salle Christian Brothers changed Max and Pablo?
Max met the Brothers at Saint Mary’s College, so he was familiar with them through his classes and on-campus interactions. He shared about living in community with the Brothers at DeLaSalle High School Community, “Living and serving alongside the Brothers has really changed the way that I look at and value mentorship. Whether it’s asking them for advice about working with students or relaxing and watching Big Brother (naturally one of our community’s favorite television programs), I’m always impacted by the wisdom and good spirits that they bring to every situation. The relationships and partnerships that volunteers can have with the Brothers was a major factor in my decision to volunteer, so it’s been doubly rewarding to grow personally and professionally alongside them.” While Pablo is new to the Lasallian family, he said of living in community with the Brothers, “One way I have changed is through the way I pray. Every morning we pray in silence for 10 minutes. At first, I was not happy about the idea, since I am not a morning person. I figured such 10 minutes would be a great opportunity to take a nap right before work. However, as I got accustomed to it, I found it as a great opportunity to converse with God and start the day with a hopeful and peaceful attitude. The Brothers have changed me by helping me cook and appreciate different foods. I am a picky eater and despise vegetables, but the Brothers have helped me to become more ‘courageous’ in appreciating any food being offered.”
What would Pablo and Max offer as advice to someone discerning a year of service?
Max says of a year of service, “The opportunity to grow as a professional is invaluable. The experience and skills you develop in a year of service are applicable to anything you can put your mind to. As I discern my own future, it has been incredibly helpful to reflect on how my time with Lasallian Volunteers has helped me to prepare for what those next steps will be.” Pablo would like graduating seniors to know, “I would say to do your research and talk it through with peers and mentors. Acknowledge that a year of service is not going to be easy, and a lot of obstacles and frustrations will inevitably pop up. However, from such obstacles and frustrations, growth and understanding will blossom too. If you decide to do a volunteer year, you have to commit to it, and commitment takes work. So, sit with yourself and others as you discern, and consider your motivations, passions and interests. If these align to doing a year of service, then go for it, and God will accompany you along the way.