Lasallian Volunteer TJ Buckley working with a student in religion class

Service Site: Cathedral High School, El Paso, TX

University: Christian Brothers University

What do you do?
Cathedral High School is a predominately Hispanic, all male school that has is steeped in 86 years of Lasallian and Catholic Tradition.  At Cathedral, I serve as the Assistant Campus Minister, where I lead Lasallian Youth and I assist with our Masses, retreats and service projects. I serve as the college counselor for the Junior class and I also teach a section of Sophomore Religion.

TJ talking with students at lunch

Why did you choose to become a Lasallian Volunteer?  Have your hopes about the Program been realized?
As a student I have been involved in the Lasallian Mission from the start of high school through my college graduation.  I led Lasallian groups and participated in teaching programs with the Brothers along the way.  This all led me to believe that this program was the next logical step into my life as a Lasallian.  The program has affected me more than I expected.  My community has taught me to be a stronger person.  My faith life has grown stronger since coming to El Paso and I believe that is because of the strength of the mission of Cathedral and the support I receive from those around me.  Lasallian Volunteers has far surpassed any expectations I had because of the people around me at Cathedral.

What is the most important “thing,” do you think, that your students need from you?  What do you do to try to provide this?
The most important thing that my students need is a person that they can talk to.  They don’t need or want anything fancy.  I wasted a lot of time trying to be the perfect teacher and disciplinary.  I realized that the best I can be is myself and that works with my students.  They react to people that are real and people that show that they understand them.  Lasallian Volunteers are important to Cathedral because we press our students to be young men of faith.  I serve them by being an example for what we expect and how young men portray the values of faith, community and service, in their daily actions.  I am not always perfect as this example.  However, I think my shortcomings add to the reality that these values are not easy to follow, but should always be pursued.

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?
The Brothers, faculty and staff are extremely supportive.  Everyone is always willing to lend advice on students or just life in general.  Teaching is a difficult job that takes a lot of support at the start of a career, in order to allow the maturing process to take place.  My coworkers help me for the future by understanding this.  They know that I make mistakes and need help.  They make sure I know the difference between a mistake and failure.  The best thing that the members of our faculty and staff tell me is that “you won’t fail because we won’t let you.”  They won’t let me fail because they care about me and our students too much.  It is hard to project forward and not see myself as better because the support they provide.

What would you say to a friend from home who questioned why you chose to live with the Brothers?
I would laugh at them because the Brothers have been the most influential people in my life and that continues in this program.  The Brothers are great mentors because they listen to any and all of my problems and generally know what to say to help me deal with the situations at hand.  Also, they are a lot of fun to live with and an appreciation for sarcasm is helpful.

TJ with fellow Lasallian Volunteer Andrew

Why would you recommend the LV program to a college senior considering volunteering?
I encourage it without reservations because as a Brother once told me people learn more through experiences in contact zones, a place out of a person‘s normal way of life.  This will program is a contact zone and will force you to break the comfort zones you hold, but at the same time give you amazing support, so that you can work through the situations at hand.