Yearly Archives: 2008

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Michael Carlson

Site: Christian Brothers Spiritual Center – Philadelphia, PA

College: Loyola University Chicago

What do you do?

I work at Christian Brothers Spiritual Center, a ministry for young adults in their twenties and thirties. We create, promote, and host programs that enrich the spiritual lives of those who attend. Our offerings include speaker presentations, reflective prayer sessions and volunteer opportunities. Thursday afternoons I volunteer in a dementia/adult day care ward and on Fridays I teach RCIA classes at West Catholic High School.

What have you discovered about poverty from your work?

It may seem as though I have no right to talk about working with the disenfranchised when so many of my fellow volunteers are spending their lives with the impoverished in the truest tradition of the Christian Brothers. And I admit that I was skeptical of the Spiritual Center’s claim to serve “spiritual poverty.” But I discovered one of Mother Teresa’s convictions: “Loneliness is the most terrible poverty.” This truth moved me to have faith in my work. My work is anti-empirical in many ways and it has often been frustrating to see so few results. But those who come here desire inner-peace, which seems to mean different things to different people, and we try to make a place where they can look for it. I believe that each person needs a reason to exist and that we are all truly walking side by side along our lifetime path to give each other such a reason. Poverty is undoubtedly multi-faceted and recognizing the extent of those facets is perhaps a defining characteristic of our humanity. But I also believe, as the other LVs clearly do, that all forms of poverty are surmountable.

How has your involvement with the Brothers affected you?

I had never heard of the Christian Brothers before I looked into the program and definitely could not understand why someone would choose a religious life without becoming a priest. But the Brothers have taught me the importance of serving others as brother and not father. Br. Bud and Br. Leo continue to teach me simply by living and being themselves. I am affected by their interest and optimism, and I am indelibly impressed with their faith. In some ways, their deep love of God seems blissfully childlike though certainly not childish. At the same time, however, they continue to mature in their faith in God to better serve others. The Brothers I have met during my time as an LV are of course as human and faulted as anyone else. However, they have dedicated and continue to dedicate themselves to pursuing goodness in themselves and all others and I see such dedication as the foundation of all truly great faith.

If you could project ahead a few years and look back to now, how do you think your experiences with those you serve and with the Brothers will have changed you?

I know that I will continue to think on the experience of community and how it brought out the best in us. It is a humbling gift to live in community with such talented and caring men and women. I must say, though, that it is very doubtful that I would have been friends with any of them had I not become a Volunteer. Six unique cultural backgrounds, sensibilities, senses of humor and faiths, we are disparate in so many ways. Yet knowing and living with my community members will change me the most because we thrive not despite our differences, but because of them. Ultimately, those differences are subsumed by our shared journey to service through faith. Because of Bud, I’ll know how important it is to be at home with myself, and Leo’s trenchant faith will always inspire me to hope. I will look back and be encouraged by Mari’s dedication and ingenuity, Denis’ honest unpretentiousness, and Thais’ buoyant cheerfulness; they are well-respected, professionally successful, and ever-considerate. I will look back on these community members as a template for treating everyone, regardless of superficial differences, as brother and sister.

What would you say to a friend from home who questioned why you chose to live with the Brothers?

Living in a house full of strangers with little money and a challenging job may not immediately appeal to college graduates. But working for those in great need and living intentionally in a community that cares for you is an inimitable life-changing experience. Life is too short to not recognize yourself and the needs in our world.

By |December 1st, 2008|Categories: lv of the month|Comments Off on Michael Carlson

Katie Hills

Site: San Juan Diego Middle School – Racine, WI

College: The Catholic University of America

What do you do?

I am the full-time 5th grade teacher

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 simplest answer is love. Ten years from now, no students will remember the exact content of what you taught them. What they will remember is that you were there everyday, no matter how tough the day before was, and that you always cared. They will remember how they knew that you loved them, even if you never said it. They will remember the times that you sat with them when home was broken and when you gave them a second chance because you knew they were better. It is my hope that these are the memories my students will look back on. I hope that they remember that they were loved and that they were worth every moment.

They are incredible children and they make it extremely easy to love and care for them. I understand that the burdens they carry with them to school can be incredibly heavy on top of the regular struggles of being a middle school student. Being able to have these challenges acknowledged creates for them a sense of safety. In recognizing this I made the decision at the beginning of the year, to allow my students time in the morning for journaling. This has become an incredible tool for my students to clear their minds. I have also offered them the opportunity to turn their journals in if they would like to and I have been amazed by how many of them have continued to do so. I take time each night to read their journals and write them a little note of support or answer a question that they have included. At the last parent / teacher conference, one of the parents commented on how much journaling has meant to her daughter and how it has offered her a support and stability that she could not receive at home.

Another thing that has become very important to my students is their weekly one-on-ones. Every Friday, I take the time to meet with each student in my class for a few minutes. During this time they are able to talk about how they are feeling. We talk about grades and school briefly, but most of the time ends up being used to discuss family or friend issues. I did not realize how much it meant to the students until a week came when we had Friday off and instead of being excited, their first concern was when they would be able to make up their one-on-ones. For some of my students this has been a time when they felt they could express something bigger that was troubling them and we have been able to set up times each week to allow for a more in depth conversation. I meet with one of my students every Monday during prep to talk about some family issues and I meet with another one Tuesdays to help work on challenging subjects.

More than anything else, my students need to know that someone loves them and believes that their dreams can become a reality. I make it my mission everyday to let them know that I am that person. From their handshake in the morning on their way into class, to the one they receive on their way out, they are my number one priority. I love them and I do believe they can change their world, if not ours.

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

Two years ago, when posed with this question I would have placed faith before all else. However, I have learned that at times faith can be shaken and that having a safe and holy group of people surrounding you can be an essential support to faith development. I believe that for my students as well as for myself, a strong community becomes the bridge that supports spiritual growth and service.

I truly love my job and my students, but being their support system when their lives are filled with so much turmoil and instability can drain me and chip away at my own faith stability. It is my community, the group of people that I come home to after the workday, that lifts me up and helps to take some of the weight of the day off of my shoulders. I know that when the days are long or my lessons flop that Brother Richard will always be able to put the day into perspective and turn it into a prayerful moment. When the weight of a student’s life weighs me down I know that Andy and Br. Mike will lift it through laughter and Jackie will sit beside me and listen while I spill out the struggle. Doing my job without these people to walk beside me and bring me back to prayer would be impossible. They have become the foundation that supports all of the rest of my life here and I feel incredibly blessed to have each of them.

I believe that the same is true for my students. The community that has been formed within the four walls of our classroom is the foundation for the academics, the faith, and the moments of growth that we share. Our classroom community is a safe place where each student knows that they are loved and valued; their struggles are shared and their triumphs are celebrated by all.

If you could project ahead a few years and look back to now, how do you think your experiences with those you serve and with the Brothers will have changed you?

Years from now as I move on from this program and look back at my experiences, I will find that my view of God, the world, and myself were totally altered by the hands of poverty and love that touched me during my two years as a volunteer.

Before I entered the program I knew that I wanted to study special education. It was a field that I had always felt drawn to and I had decided to walk blindly into it. When I look back at this time in my life I will certainly find that it was here that I realized the great need for dedicated special education teachers in the impoverished areas of our country. All of my students during my past two years of service have had an exorbitant amount of God-given potential, but many could not afford the extra resources needed to assess this potential and bring it to fruition. I have found my calling among these students who slip through the cracks of our education system without anyone noticing.

I will always look back at this time with the understanding that it is where I truly came to know God and walk each day beside the most genuine examples of Jesus. I understand now that you will never truly know Jesus until you have held the hands of his poor and wiped the tears of frustration from their eyes.

I would simply try to give perspective. Nobody can be perfect all the time, and we are not helping anything by casting judgments in the meantime. Period.

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

There will never be a time in your life where you can totally give yourself in service to strangers; where you can walk hand in hand with the poor. It is something that will change your life and you open your eyes to social injustice. You will fall in love with those you service and in the end you will realize that you are gaining way more than you give.

By |November 1st, 2008|Categories: lv of the month|Comments Off on Katie Hills

2008-2009

0809

First Row

Elizabeth Pillari, Nichelle Ingram, Samantha Wildhaber, Sonya Lee, Paul Avvento, Sarah Bellingham, Colleen Boyette, Sophia Cartagena, Connie Hernandez, Liz Limones, Alisa Macksey, Director

Second Row
Michelle Hoffman, Daniel Maher, Julie McAvoy, Alina Rivas, Megan Luna, Denis Block, Megan Larson, Michael Carlson, Martin Richard, Coordinator of Recruitment

Third Row
Jim Ruck, Director of Development, Audrey Davis, Sarah Jane Engle, Mari Anzicek, Glenna Krzyzanowski, Joe Flynn, Thais Hunter, Janet Solis, Katie Hills, Mario Ragghianti, Kevin Kuczynski, Jolleen Wagner, Associate Director

Fourth Row
Br. Ed Phelan, Ashley Prevost, Jenn Hart, Danny Klee, Zac Ufnar, Arthor Curley, Ana Sontag, Brendan Corcoran, Karen Giroux, Br. Michael Farrell

Fifth Row
Kiera Maguire, Betty Marquez, Jackie Young, Amy Kalina, Sarah Crabtree, Amanda Cosio-Bognuda, Jessica Parfitt, Kristin Retzloff, Kristen Rafferty, Claire Johnson, Brett Adams

Sixth Row
Br. Michael Reis, Karen Schutten, Rose Daum, Andy Weingarten, Kate Kelly, Steve Clements, Gary Pritts, Joe Kolar, Scott Baietti, Alex Downes-Borowski

By |October 23rd, 2008|Categories: Uncategorized, yearbook|Comments Off on 2008-2009

Brendan Corcoran

Site: San Miguel School – Tulsa, Oklahoma

College: St. Mary’s University of Minnesota

What do you do?

I teach science to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders at San Miguel Tulsa. I also help with our after school activities including boy’s volleyball and study hall.

Why did you choose to become a Lasallian Volunteer? Have your hopes about the Program been realized?

I graduated from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in May 2007. There, many Lasallians introduced me to the most wonderful experiences. At St. Mary’s, I was fortunate enough to receive an education that reached far beyond the classroom. Education is one of my passions, and I am aware education runs much deeper than being a teacher in front of a classroom of students. People learn in different ways, and it is such a wonderful feeling to be in a community of educators who truly care about education and are not afraid to try something unique that will help each individual grow. I became a Lasallian Volunteer because the mission is so simple; in a nutshell: to provide quality education to those most in need.

In the past several years, there has been one constant in my life. It is that every year I find myself growing. Lasallian Volunteers, though I’ve only been with the program for two months, has satisfied many of my hopes. Not only have I found myself growing personally in my spirituality and experiences but I have also seen the program lift up many others.

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?

My students face tough situations in every facet of their lives and in different intensities. When some of my students talk to me I hear things I could have never guessed about: the troubles they have had at home, in school, or growing up. With other students, these issues can be much more apparent. San Miguel provides consistency for them. It is something for them to hold on to that will respect them, offer them help, and invite them to participate on a regular basis. When entering Lasallian Volunteers, I was told we should be much like older siblings to our students, able to relate with them, yet hold them to high expectations. I think San Miguel students, whether they notice it or not, look to our school for support and seek out help from those at San Miguel who they can trust. I try to be one of those consistent forces. I think they need someone who will speak to them in a straightforward manner showing them that they are worthy of a quality education and they are expected to be responsible. They have the power and potential to do absolutely anything whether they believe it or not.

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

I have a student who loves to parrot the phrase, “I don’t know.” I would say for 95% of the questions I offer, his rote response is those three words. Our most recent exam included 15 matching questions. When I came to see how he was doing, every question except one had the response “Idk” written in the blank. The one question he did answer was correct. After a brief lecture on how he was indeed intelligent and able to use his brain, and how not even attempting to answer questions was unacceptable in my classroom, I sat down next to him and read through the remaining 14 matching questions with him. The first 10 I asked him to try, he responded with “I don’t know…mitochondria?” Perfect. “I don’t know… ribosome?” Yes, write it down. This trend continued. He replied to each of my questions correctly on the first try. Success comes in the smallest of steps. My students often succeed, but after feeling good for about 3 seconds, they turn around and say, “But that will only happen once, and I’ll fail the next time around.”

Many of my students need only to have confidence in their own abilities. I cannot monitor my successes as a teacher very accurately, but I can see that perhaps my main objective is only to help my students see their potential. This “D-student” got a B on his exam. And it was entirely HIS success, though my pleasure in witnessing it made it feel much like my own. It is the small yet significant successes of my students in their work that I enjoy observing.

What would you say to one of your students/mothers/clients/guests who came to you discouraged about a particularly troubling problem?

Many of my students come from situations in which they experience much more stress and insecurity than anyone should feel, especially at their age. Some feel they must fill vacant responsibilities in their lives, mend broken trust, or prove themselves to the people closest to them. It is difficult to witness how those anxieties of teenage life that everyone goes through are sometimes compounded by unfortunate circumstances. I must say that despite this, my kids are wonderful. When they express their troubles, I think they need only an ear to listen, to understand, to be unassuming, and to give them time. It seems like sometimes I find myself impatient or without time to give them proper answers. I try to remind myself daily that I must listen first and give what I am able. A smile, compassion, some encouraging words or advise can go a long way in someone’s life who doesn’t have the luxury of continuous support. I think my students appreciate when we at San Miguel listen to them and affirm their emotions. More than anything they will learn in my science class, those discouraged students need to know they are important and extremely capable.

What might you say to your Principal/Supervisor/who appeared negative about the recent behavior of the person just above who had recently confided in you?

I would simply try to give perspective. Nobody can be perfect all the time, and we are not helping anything by casting judgments in the meantime. Period.

What would you say to a friend from home who questioned why you chose to live with the Brothers?

The idea of living with the Brothers should not leave people uneasy or nervous. To those who have not met any of the Brothers, I can understand how it might be a bizarre setup. Just like anyone, however, they are wonderful, experienced people with a wealth of knowledge, advice, stories, and humor. I wasn’t certain how living in a community of Brothers would be, but my experience in Tulsa has been wonderful, in large part, because of them. I immediately felt comfortable and at home with Brothers Chris and Richard. They are much like my family, giving me support when I need it and sarcasm when I deserve it. I think it could be tough to understand the Brothers if you do not understand the Lasallian mission. They care about their cause, and it is quite humbling to realize how much there is to learn from them.

By |October 1st, 2008|Categories: lv of the month|Comments Off on Brendan Corcoran

Janet Solis

Site: Highbridge Community Life Center – Bronx, NY

College: Loyola Marymount University

What do you do?

I work with parents who are in danger of having their children removed. I assist these parents with meeting the mandates of family court, fulfilling their service plan requirements and ensuring visits with their children are both frequent and productive. This includes building personal and family skills that will help them become employed, assist their children to be more successful in school, manage their finances, and know where to look for help when it is needed.

What is the most important “thing,” do you think, that is needed in your job? What do you do to provide this?

It has often been said, “The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you.” Similar to a friendship, I feel the basis of a working relationship should be trust. The most important thing that my clients need is to be able to trust me. They must trust that I sincerely want to help them; that I care about their individual situation, that they are not just another case or family coming through, but most importantly, that I believe in them. Often times clients come in feeling disconnected from their social service providers and as if they are just another number, blamed or marked as unfit to sustain or provide for their family. They are constantly reminded of the wrong(s) that they have done, which forms the belief that everyone is against them. It’s through listening that I am able to gain their trust and empower them with the awareness that they are not alone and I am there to help them.

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

This past year has taught me that success is not measured by how families are ultimately reunited but rather by the steps one takes to move forward, even if it means not being reunited. Success is the parent who was willing to speak, trust and confide in me. It’s the bipolar parent who, despite being angry with her lawyers and social workers after spending all morning in court waiting for her case to be called, was able to maintain her composure. It is the frustrated parent who is continually there for her child despite the confused child wanting and not wanting to come home for the past four years. It is the parent whose housing papers have finally gone through and as a result can have visits with their child in the home. It means working with each individual at their own capacity.

What would you say to a friend from home who asked how your involvement with the Brothers affected you?

Prior to becoming an LV, I did not know anything about the Christian Brothers and their mission. When I was told that part of the LV experience was living in community with the Brothers, I did not know what to expect. I envisioned a big disconnect between the volunteers and the Brothers; however living and working with them has proved otherwise. I’ve learned that the Brothers are personable and love interacting with the volunteers forty years younger than them. The volunteers and the brothers each have something to offer the other.

We all enter the program wanting to serve and make a difference not thinking about those moments of confusion and frustration that we will encounter throughout the year. The greatest thing about the Brothers is that they are there to help make sense of what is happening and bring balance to the experience. They understand what you are going through because they have been there before and because they have dedicated their lives to living the mission.

Living with Brothers Michael, Ed, Bill, and Joe has been one of the greatest experiences of this entire year and a major reason for my decision to return. The wisdom, experience and stories that they share are one of a kind, and I couldn’t imagine living in community without them. I live with a man who taught in Ethiopia for twenty years and lived a very adventurous life that included climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, something most people can only dream of. Another who has always been ahead of his time, a forward thinker who sees the potential for greatness in everyone, assuring others that the impossible is possible. A third is an avid Red Sox fan who brings an intense amount of energy and passion to the classroom. The last is a local history expert who tirelessly and unselfishly gives of himself by traveling a great distance to fulfill his commitment to his job and community.

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

As is the case in many volunteer programs, the LVs have offered me a chance to really make a difference in someone’s life and be transformed in the process. I get an authentic satisfaction from work because even though I had no prior experience in social work, my clients trusted me and kept coming back to me with a myriad of issues.

What makes the LVs different from other volunteer programs is the community and support offered by the LV program and the close ties with the Brothers. I know fifty-five other volunteers around the country who are also on a journey of faith and self-discovery through a simple lifestyle of service. I have the unequivocal support of the brothers both in my work and my home. The network of LV alums everywhere offers me opportunities to continue in this Lasallian mission that I have grown to love after my two years as a volunteer end.

By |September 1st, 2008|Categories: lv of the month|Comments Off on Janet Solis