Paul Avvento

Site: De Marillac Academy – San Francisco, CA

College: Manhattan College

What do you do?

I do many different things at De Marillac. I am the 7th grade religion teacher, the 7th and 8th grade P.E. teacher. I am prefect for 7th and 8th grade lunch everyday and I am the moderator of the Yearbook Club. Also, on Tuesday’s I teach a computer class, and starting next quarter I will be teaching an introductory Italian class. My other responsibilities include teaching music, 8th grade study skills and being the teacher assistant for 7th grade Language Arts.

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

Working with middle school students can be difficult, because the last thing in the world they want to do is to show you that they appreciate you. There are, however, subtle ways that students will show their appreciation. There was one student, who seemed extremely unmotivated and had a problem with bullying. We had several conversations but nothing seemed to change, then I decided to drown her with compliments and smiles, and within a week it was as if she had completely changed. Seeing her use her leadership skills to make a positive difference proved to me that every student deserves a chance to be loved and to be given the benefit of the doubt.

About a month ago I went on a 10k run/walk with some 8th grade boys and we had the chance to go inside Monster Park, to see the field the 49ers play on. It was a great opportunity for them. Being able to spend a day with the students, talking about life and high school, and being able to walk on the field was a great experience.

How has your involvement with the Brothers affected you?

An opportunity to live with the Brothers was one of the main reasons I joined the Lasallian Volunteers. I feel that living in community has already helped me in so many ways. Having daily Mass and prayer makes working in school much easier. The most important thing it has taught me is that living in community requires making sacrifices, but as Saint Francis (I think it was him) said, a sacrifice is not really a sacrifice if it is what your heart wants to do. There have been many times in the beginning that I had to leave events early, or not be completely present because I had too much work to do, or too much cleaning. I slowly realized that it was my responsibility to take care of my work and other things during my time, before they piled up and took over my life. This has allowed me to be a better teacher because I have things prepared in advance, and it has made me a more responsible person, because I know I am responsible for more than myself.

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

I think the most important of the core values is Faith. I feel that faith incorporates the other two. St. James tells us that Faith without service is no faith at all, so having faith requires service. Jesus tells us that when two or more are gathered in his name he is present, and Jesus was always with others (except for when he was meditating). I feel in order to have faith strong enough to move mountains, we need to incorporate service and community into our lives, but the other two can be accomplished without faith. The other two without faith is doing good will, but not necessarily God’s will.

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

I would encourage them to share the problem with me and try to separate fact from fiction. I would ask them to identify some areas where they are responsible for the problem, and ideas of how we can correct those areas. I would then let them know that the problem will be solved, but that I will only help them, not do it for them.

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

The LV program has offered me growth in many ways. I do not feel that any other program offers the support that a college graduate needs in this type of situation. The schools we work in are designed to help, and we receive a lot of that help. We are put in situations to succeed, not to struggle. I am learning a lot teaching many classes, but I am also learning a lot observing the classes I am an assistant in. The staff meets with us weekly to ensure that we are growing professionally. Our communities help us with lesson planning problems, problems we encounter teaching, but also our communities help us grow as people. I come from a very strong and loving family, and the amount of support I receive in this program is incredibly similar.

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

The LV program truly is changing lives. It is changing the lives of the families it serves, but also the lives of the volunteers. Unfortunately many of the schools, and the program, can only do as much as the generous gifts they receive. In many instances there are generous people willing to help. Unlike many programs, the Lasallian Volunteer program makes incredible use of the funds it receives.