Jolleen Wagner

Site: San Miguel Schools of Chicago-Gary Comer Campus – Chicago, IL

College: Siena College

What do you do?

I teach 7th and 8th grade Language Arts and Sexual Education. I coach the JV Girl’s basketball team and the Poetry Slam Team.

What is the most important “thing,” do you think, that your students/clients/guests need from you? What do you do to try to provide this?

The most important “thing” that my students need from me is my time. The time to love them, have a vested interest in them, be an advocate for them, guide them, accompany them, pray for them, and the time to provide them with the tools they need to be successful. I try to provide my time to them by asking them what it is that they need from me, and carrying out an adequate and realistic response.

What have you discovered about poverty from your work?

There are many levels of and faces of poverty. Even if you, yourself, have had an intimate experience of poverty, there are others that you have been ignorant to. No two people experience poverty the same way. Until we come to terms with this and open our minds to the awareness of poverty on multiple levels, we will continue to under serve ourselves and our neighbors.

What is the most challenging obstacle that your students/clients/guests face? How do your school/agency and your own outreach try to empower them to overcome this obstacle?

The most challenging obstacle that my students and many of their parents face is that they live in a society that allows them (and even encourages them) to believe that it doesn’t matter if they reach their own personal potential. As a result, many of my students aren’t sure that they want to even know what they are capable of let alone try to set and accomplish their own goals. I empower my students to overcome this obstacle by challenging them while expressing and showing my belief in their abilities, talents, and existence. San Miguel School empowers our students by creating and offering a loving, supportive environment that shows them they are created for success.

Have you noticed any signs of success in your work? What are they?

I have watched my former 7th grade students embrace and meet a more demanding curriculum. In the first marking period, I had only two students that earned A’s and far too many that earned F’s. I had students that held A’s in 7th grade, pulling C’s now. This worried me for a few weeks. I wondered if the challenge was too great, I wondered if I needed to change things up and find a better way to ensure I wasn’t leaving students behind.

I stuck with it, working harder at one-on-one interventions and by the second marking period, I had 8 students earning A’s and none with F’s. It was an adjustment period. A time when they needed to see that I knew they could handle the work we were doing and I needed to see that they would persist and succeed.

How has your involvement with the Brothers affected you?

A number of the Brothers that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, the opportunity of speaking with, and the blessing to live with have become some of the most important men in my life. I have two in mind right now that I am sure I will know long beyond my years as an LV. The Brothers are phenomenal people with so much too offer to everyone they come in contact with. It’s a matter of an open-mind and an open-heart: on all accounts. I am proud to call them family.

Which of the core values (Faith, Community, Service) are most important to you? Why?

This is a challenging question because each core value is such an influential part in my day to day living. That said, faith, is the most important to me. Without faith, I am unsure that I would be providing service or living in community. Without faith, I most definitely would have a harder go at both.

Why would you recommend the LV program to a college senior considering volunteering?

When you are considering volunteering, you need to look honestly and openly at all opportunities and the foundations of the programs. The LV program is amazing if Faith, Service, and Community are aspects of life that you treasure and/or desire to learn more about or experience more fully.

Why would you recommend a contribution to the LV Program from a prospective donor?

Having any part in the works that occur at LV sites and in the lives of the students, parents, clients, and volunteers impacted is a phenomenal opportunity. Visit one site, meet one student, listen to one story, open your heart to one struggle.