September: San Miguel School, Chicago

Our September Ministry of the Month highlights San Miguel School in Chicago, Illinois, which is located within the Midwest District. Anjelika Angosta is a second-year LV and a graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California. Daniel McCarthy is a second-year LV and a graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California and Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento, California.

What is San Miguel School?

San Miguel School was founded by two De La Salle Christian Brothers and two lay Catholics to serve middle school students who are at-risk academically, economically disadvantaged, and who lack access to excellent academic resources tailored to their needs.

As a Lasallian school, San Miguel School offers a human and Christian education to the economically disadvantaged and marginalized. It provides innovative and excellent academics, along with helping students develop the skills they need to be successful and the moral compass they need to make good decisions.

San Miguel School has grown to serve 90 middle school students. It provides a graduate support program, which follows students through high school, post-secondary education and career; a family support program, which offers adult education classes and workshops; and a community center, which offers programs for children and families in the Back of the Yards neighborhood of Chicago.

How did Anjelika and Daniel learn about Lasallian Volunteers?

Anjelika learned about Lasallian Volunteers through her experiences at Saint Mary’s College of California. “I was a student leader in the Catholic Institute for Lasallian Social Action (CILSA), and I was heavily involved in the Mission and Ministry Center (MMC). Through my roles in these departments, I heard and learned a lot about Lasallian Volunteers, and I knew a couple individuals who served before me. Service was something I did throughout my time at Saint Mary’s, and I figured doing a year or two of service would be fulfilling for me, and it has been so far.”

Daniel learned about the program through a recruitment visit a current LV at that time did. “She gave a great presentation, was very personable, and provided great information. Not knowing what I wanted to do after college, I felt a strong call to apply.”

What services do Daniel and Anjelika provide at San Miguel School?

Daniel teaches seventh grade social studies and reading. Anjelika serves in graduate support where she accompanies eighth grade students applying to high school and supports graduates of San Miguel who are in high school with tutoring and space for them to connect with one another.

Which core value of Lasallian Volunteers is most important to Anjelika and Daniel?

Anjelika finds community to be the most important core value for her. “This is my second year living in an intentional community and although it got a lot better toward the end of my first year as an LV, it wasn’t always easy for me. I found a very tight knit community with the people I work with at San Miguel, which I was very lucky to have. I would have a very different experience if I didn’t have the San Miguel community to rely on and have their support. And I’ve fallen back on them more times than I can count, but they have always had my back. My first year as a Lasallian Volunteer was not the easiest but they were there for me when I didn’t know who else to turn to. Entering my second year, I’m lucky to be living with the same community members and working with the same group of individuals because those connections and relationships are heavily important to me.”

Daniel finds service to the most important core value to him, sharing, “The kids we work with are at the heart of what we do and serving them not only gives the students what they need in an education, but also enriches our own lives. The capacity I have for patience, empathy and work ethic has increased astronomically since I first came to San Miguel, and I attribute that to the kids.”

What is the most important thing the students need from  Daniel and Anjelika?

Daniel knows that his students need someone to meet them where they are and elevate their learning. “Recognizing children as people and taking the time to meet their needs, regardless of the subject, facilitates a better learning environment and encourages kids to do things they otherwise would have written off as unattainable.”

For Anjelika the word that comes to mind is consistency. “I think the most important thing my students need from me is to show up and be present for them. For a lot of our San Miguel students, this is their happy place. I’ve been told before that ‘You are going to handle everything with a smile on your face while somehow putting a smile on everyone else’s face because that’s just what you do,’ and I think that is one of the biggest things I can do for my students, even if my smile doesn’t shine as bright on some days.”

How has living alongside the De La Salle Christian Brothers changed Anjelika and Daniel?

Both LVs attribute their positive experience of living our three core values of faith, service and community to their community director, Brother Mark Snodgrass, FSC. Anjelika shared, “I’m lucky to have built the relationship I currently have with my community director. It has put me outside my comfort zone, but I have grown tremendously in the year that I have been living here. Some conversations are not easy to have, and my community director has shown nothing but support to me in times of my greatest struggles. He recognizes what I need even before I know what I need.”

Daniel has known the Brothers his whole life, but had never lived with one before. “I’ve known various Christian Brothers from the time I was seven years old. Some were my mother’s coworkers, my teachers, my college professor, and one was even my advisor. I think the dedication that the Brothers have to the communities they live in as well as the dedication to the sites they serve are admirable. Brother Mark, who I am in community with, is undoubtedly an example of a Brother who really cares.”

What advice would Anjelika and Daniel offer to someone discerning a year of service?

Anjelika and Daniel both agree that the growth you experience as an LV is very worthwhile. Anjelika would tell them, “A year of volunteering may be one of the greatest years of challenging your limits and yourself, but it is worth all the growth you experience along the way.”

Daniel would tell them, “While you think you are going to go out and change the world, the community you serve will end up changing you. In my opinion, this is for the better. It is not easy to be an LV, but the challenge is vastly outweighed by the reward.”

How has your experience of faith, service and community been impacted due to COVID-19?

COVID-19 helped Daniel to grow. “If anything, COVID-19 made me appreciate faith, service and community more than I would have otherwise. I graduated from college in 2020 with a degree in history, not a field that is particularly easy to get a job in, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. After being stuck inside for four months, I took the leap and moved from California to Chicago. Service and community ended up being the jolt my life needed. Coming to school and being with students and coworkers for eight hours a day, having a community of new people at home, and assuring myself that somehow I was meant to be here. During a time when so many were alone, jobless and struggling, I had the fortune of finding a purpose.”

Being a volunteer in the midst of COVID-19 added many layers of confusion, doubt and mental struggles for Anjelika. “During my first year as a Lasallian Volunteer, I was the development assistant here at San Miguel. Because of COVID-19, I wasn’t able to do what I initially said ‘yes’ to. I asked myself every day, ‘Why am I even here?’ On top of trying to play this game of tug of war inside my head of ‘what am I doing here’ and trying to tell myself that I was put here for a reason, my home base here didn’t make any of it easier for me. Living away from home is already hard and being a person of the global majority is extremely difficult anywhere, especially in a world unknown, where I’m trying to navigate a new life. I am Asian, specifically Filipina, so this heightened a great fear I didn’t know I had because being an Asian during the times of COVID-19 mentally took a toll on me. Being projected on because I’m different amongst a group of people was something that I always took pride in, but it’s not always easy. As this new service year unfolds, I’m ecstatic to be working in graduate support and experiencing how San Miguel operates during a normal school year, of course with masks on. This is a new service year, and it took a lot for me to return but I am back and better, for the most part.”

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