October: San Miguel School

Our October Ministry of the Month highlights San Miguel School in Washington, D.C. Kamila (Mila) Kuchta is a second-year LV and a 2020 graduate of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. Diana Carey is a first-year LV and a 2021 graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California (SMC).

What is San Miguel School?

San Miguel School is a Lasallian middle school, dedicated to transforming lives for academically underserved and economically disadvantaged boys in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Based on the virtues of Saint John Baptist de La Salle, the Miguel model of education provides the academic, spiritual and social training necessary for positive character development, personal resiliency and responsible citizenship. Students enter San Miguel as at-risk boys and graduate as Miguel Men, equipped for success in high school, college and beyond.

Why did Mila and Diana decide to become Lasallian Volunteers?

Mila learned about the program as an education major at Saint Mary’s University. “I not only heard about it from my professors but also from LV alums who would return to campus to share about their experience. I then decided to become a Lasallian Volunteer because I have always been drawn to service, and I wanted to continue to learn more about the Lasallian mission.”

It was through the Mission and Ministry Center at Saint Mary’s College of California that Diana was introduced to the program. “I am pretty sure the first LV I met was Katie O’Leary when she was an LV Scholar at SMC. Then as I became more involved on campus, I met other people who would go on to become LVs upon graduating — Savannah Mattox, Annamarie Carmazzi, Daniel McCarthy, Anjelika Angosta, and many more.”

Which of the core values (faith, service, community) is most important to Mila? To Diana? Why?

Mila says that service is the most important core value. “I have always been drawn to service, especially because it allows for me to work with others. Service is the most important core value to me because it is what drives our volunteer experience. I see community and faith as added bonuses, whereas service is ultimately what we signed up for.”

Diana on the other hand says that community is the most important core value for her. “Especially after spending months isolated because of the pandemic, I recharge my batteries with other people, and I value the ability we have to connect with one another in shared spaces over shared meals and time together.”

What are the most important things that Diana and Mila’s students need from them? 

“I think that the most important thing my students need from me is to treat them like real people and empathize with the real world struggles they are going through even though they are still children,” Diana shares.

Mila agrees. “I think that the most important thing my students need from me is to be seen, heard and understood. Middle school students are way too often overlooked, ignored or dismissed, especially boys, and even more so Latino youth. Moreover, I must tend to my student’s needs now more than ever with our return to a normal school setting after a year and a half of the virtual/hybrid model.”

How has Mila and Diana’s experience of faith, service and community been impacted due to COVID-19?

As a second-year LV, Mila taught virtually last year and this year she’s back in the classroom. “The greatest impact COVID-19 has had on my LV experience so far this year is the transition from a virtual/hybrid model back to a more traditional school setting. It has been quite an adjustment for all involved, but even with the given limitations, I am ultimately grateful to be back in the classroom. On the other hand, my experiences of faith and community have not been as greatly impacted by COVID-19 this year. It has been a joy to be able to adventure around DC more and not have to quarantine for two weeks after travel.”

Diana has been working on her presence in the classroom. “I have become very good at being heard through my mask and using gestures to articulate because no one can see my lips moving.”

What would Diana and Mila say to a college senior who is discerning a year of service?

Mila has a long list of reasons why she’d encourage a college senior to serve as a Lasallian Volunteer. “Whether it’s the experience itself, amount of support offered, formation opportunities, living in a new place, etc., I’d say that if you’re passionate about service, community and/or faith, do it.”

Diana encourages college seniors to think about their personal “mission statement.” “Mission statements help guide the futures of companies, non-profits and other organizations. How can you use your personal mission statement to help guide your next steps forward in life?”

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