Monthly Archives: December 2012

­

Stephanie Carlsen: CHRISTmas: Remembering the Reason for the Season

Stephanie Carlsen, 11-13, La Salle Academy, New York, NY

I love Christmas. It’s one of my favorite seasons because I get to spend some extra time with the people that I love, while celebrating the birth of my Savior. Sometimes, though, I get caught up in the commercialized Christmas aspects of the holiday. Like those people juggling twenty packages and bags hobbling through the mall, frantically searching for the perfect Christmas present. Then something usually happens to break me out of that secular mind-set. For example, this year one of my students came in with an essay and I was reminded of what Christmas is all about.

See, this year, the senior religion teacher at La Salle Academy gave an interesting assignment to the students. He asked them to write a 100 word essay explaining what Christmas meant to them.

One student brought his essay in for me to read and I felt so much happier about the holidays. Almost every other essay I read talked about presents, packages, boxes, and bags. They talked about pies and candy galore. They talked about decorating with tinsel and trees and wreaths with large ribbon bows. They talked about shopping and ice skating and time off from school.

But here was a student who saw beyond that. He saw past the santas, the lights, and the music. He looked beyond the decorations, the parties, the gift exchanges, and got right to the root of Christmas. He talked about the true meaning of Christmas, quoting one of the most famous verses in the bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Christmas isn’t about the commercials on TV, the latest electronics, or finding the perfect present. Christmas isn’t about the turkey or ham, the cookies or pies. The Grinch discovered this when he tried to stop Christmas from coming. He stopped at the top of the hill, with his sleigh laden with the stolen food, gifts, and decorations, listening for the sad cries of Whos without a Christmas. Much to his dismay,

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, was singing! Without any presents at all! He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME! Somehow or other, it came just the same! And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so? It came without ribbons! It came without tags! “It came without packages, boxes or bags!” And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. “Maybe Christmas …perhaps …means a little bit more!”

The Grinch’s revelation is completely correct. Christmas is about more than the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. It’s about more than the decorations and presents and food.

I think the true meaning of Christmas is perfectly expressed in the famous scene from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Charlie Brown has become so despaired in his “failed” attempt to participate in the Christmas spirit, that he loudly asks “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Fortunately, Linus Van Pelt is there to explain:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. It’s about sharing the joy of God’s love with those around us. It’s about letting God’s love shine through each of us and into the lives of those we serve. Over the last few school days before Christmas, I took a page out of Linus’s book, and shared some of my favorite CHRISTmas reminders with my students:

  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  2. “Peace on Earth,” Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey episode 054 http://whitsendblog.org/2006/12/free-adventures-in-odyssey-episode-peace-on-earth/
  3. Santa and Jesus picture http://mommaknowsbestblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Santa-Kneeling-before-Christ.jpg
  4. Teach the children about Christmas  http://www.neloo.com/Christmas/Christmas1.html
  5. The REAL Meaning of Christmas (backwards) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBSJS66Pbac
  6. What is Advent Again? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdD55ulb80&feature=youtu.be

Stephanie Carlsen, 11-13, La Salle Academy, New York, NY

 

By |December 24th, 2012|Categories: blog|Comments Off on Stephanie Carlsen: CHRISTmas: Remembering the Reason for the Season

Gloria Jimenez: “Amaaa! How did you make that?”

Gloria Jimenez, 12-13, Tides Family Services, Pawtucket, RI

It’s a phrase I have been hearing and saying all my life. Let me explain. Coming from my big familia, cooking and eating was always an exciting, and somewhat nerve wrecking event. It was exciting because it brought us all together for hours. We gathered in the kitchen trying to “help” mom make her famous posole, and then pulled a random chair to all fit around the dining room table. And while everyone was serving himself or herself, mom’s questions always came up, “Will it be good? I wonder if I added enough salt? Will there be enough??” It was not until after everyone started eating that her nervousness started to drift away and of course, being my mom’s cooking, we knew it would be delicious.

Over the years my siblings started actually helping my mom cook, instead of the watching and taste testing I was doing. They cooked up a storm and shared with everyone! However, till this day the same phrase is repeated; “Amaaa! How did you make that?” ‘Amaaa’ is a way of saying mother in Spanish (in a somewhat annoying way due to the ‘a’ being extended and dragged out). So, after calling out to our mom whether in person or on the phone, she would gladly give instructions to her famous recipes.

Once college started and I moved from home, my usage of this phrase grew exponentially and I felt happy about trying to learn my mother’s recipes and even adding a twist to them (on purpose or by accident). Yet something was missing, I needed the big crowd to be with in the kitchen and to feed! I was missing my familia. But this story doesn’t end sad. (:

You see, as a Lasallian Volunteer, I have the opportunity to cook once a week for my WHOLE community! My mother (and when it concerns seafood, my father) gets a phone call almost every week with the same phrase, “Amaaa! How did you make that?” Meanwhile, my lovely community members are coming in and out of the house, sitting in the kitchen, chatting with me and even helping me out. After the cooking comes the best part: sharing it! And that’s when I find myself asking the same questions my mom always does, “Will it be good? Did I add enough salt? Will there be enough?” It is when my community members start eating that these questions fade away.

Cooking and eating brings my community together and I love it. I am blessed to have the opportunity to cook and be cooked for; LV you have given me another familia to share this passion with. <3

Gloria Jimenez, 12-13, Tides Family Services, Pawtucket, RI

By |December 17th, 2012|Categories: blog|Comments Off on Gloria Jimenez: “Amaaa! How did you make that?”

Mairead McNameeKing: The Universal Right to Education: A document, a mission, and reality in North Portland today

Human Rights Day and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Mairead McNameeKing, 12-13, De La Salle North Catholic High School, Portland, OR

On December 10th, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the UN General Assembly.[i] This document is “based on the idea that there are a few common standards of decency that can and should be accepted by people of all nations and cultures.”[ii] To this end, the UDHR set out the rights and liberties to which people everywhere are entitled as human beings and citizens of the world. This document even broke the Guinness World Record for the most widely translated and disseminated in the world—as of 2011, the UDHR had been translated into more than 380 languages and dialects from Abkhaz to Zulu.[iii]

The UDHR was conceived of and written in the wake of World War II. As the world learned in greater detail the atrocities of Nazi Germany, it was decided that the UN Charter had not been explicit enough in defining in detail the rights to which it referred and those to whom they applied. [iv] So, in a world that had recently been deeply divided and damaged, one of the first acts of the “newly created” UN was to task the Human Rights Commission, a multinational group of 18 members, to specifically lay out the provisions for human rights for all, a “set of principles that all member states could pledge to implement.”[v]

The “foundation blocks” for the entire document are “dignity, liberty, equality, and brotherhood.” All the rights set out in the UDHR are based upon this foundation. Rights are described in detail—the rights of individuals, the rights of individuals in relation to others and to larger groups—and fall into various spheres: spiritual, public, political, economic, social, and cultural. [vi]

Alright, alright, I get it. I recognize that pursuing a degree in International Studies, with a concentration in Ethics and International Social Justice, I may be more enthusiastic about Human Rights Day and the details and structure of the UDHR a bit more than other people you know. I also realize that end notes probably aren’t necessary in a blog post about my volunteer experience, entertaining as it may be. The reason I’m going through all of this is to underline my belief that the UDHR, and the rights it outlines, are of vital importance! This was true upon its adoption and remains equally (or perhaps more!) true today, for everyone around the world. As volunteers, and members of the greater Lasallian tradition, we see the real status of these human rights every day in the communities we serve.

Some highlights from the document & the Lasallian mission

While I won’t elaborate on every single point of this document, I will provide a few especially relevant highlights. The UDHR begins with the powerful declaration:

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood” (Article 1).

This firmly establishes the freedom, equality, and dignity of all persons, regardless of the ways in which we may perceive our differences from one another. This is integral to the Lasallian mission which likewise strives to achieve this equality. Lasallians treat all they meet with this even-handedness. Through the work of Lasallians everywhere, every day brings us closer to achieving this equality in dignity and rights for all peoples. As for acting towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood? That could have been written by St. John Baptist de la Salle himself! Relating to one another as brothers and sisters in one great community, we can bridge real and invented gaps between groups of people, creating a new society founded of the kind of equality and respect set out in the UDHR.

The stated mission of the Lasallian Volunteers, as an organization, is to provide “dedicated, well-trained Volunteers” to those schools and agencies affiliated with the De La Salle Christian Brothers whose mission is to serve the underserved and disadvantaged, the overlooked and often forgotten among us. The primary way Lasallians do this is through education.

We hear over and over again that education is the most direct way to level the playing field, to be successful, to lead richer and deeper lives, and so on. These claims come from economic studies, from world leaders, from educational professionals…you get the picture. As the daughter of two lifelong educators, the significance of education, its intrinsic value, and its ability to shape lives and futures was instilled in me at an early age and was a huge part of my formation (as well as part of how I found myself in Portland). The value of education is espoused in the Lasallian mission and in Article 26 of the UDHR, which describes the universal right to education. This article states that “Everyone has the right to education” and that

“Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.”[vii]

This Article aligns with De La Salle North Catholic’s mission. As a school, DLSN seeks to provide a faith-based, high quality, college preparatory education to underserved students in Portland. The primary goal of the school is “to develop tomorrow’s community leaders by making high-quality education accessible to motivated young people in a learning environment that values cultural, spiritual, and ethnic diversity.” The school “provides each student with the opportunity to succeed” through a combination of “small classes, high expectations, and active participation in our Corporate Internship Program.”[viii]

Though I fill many roles, that Corporate Internship Program office is where I work most of the time. A few of my primary responsibilities are to: ensure students’ success at their internships, maintain positive relationships with our corporate and nonprofit partners, and to help train and retrain students as needed. On any given day, I might work with unplaced students on a lesson I’ve planned to further their personal and professional development, set up meetings with nonprofit partners, and drive students home from their job sites. Recently I’ve been working more and more with the nonprofit partnerships, but previously I had spent the majority of my time with the students who do not have job placements yet. Because of this, I have had much more time directly working with the students in a school setting than I ever expected, connecting with them, hearing their troubles and victories, sharing in their stories from the frustrating to the encouraging.

One of the greatest joys I’ve had this year has been helping these students with their writing, a task that brings out my inner English teacher (it must run in the family). While it’s wonderful to see students bring their essay grades up two whole letter grades, my favorite kind of essays to see are the college essays. On one student’s common application essay, she begins with this line: “This is me, this is my story, and this is me going into the war.” The war she’s talking about is her fight against her situation, the struggles both at home and in society, the very real violence in her environment, the disparity and discrimination against which she has pushed back her whole life.

In spite of all of this adversity, this young woman is determined to be the first from her family “to walk across that stage with [her] ticket to the future and a college education” in her hand. She’s realized that education is her escape from replicating the cycle of dysfunction and chaos, her way to freedom. Over and over, this is what I’ve heard from my students—education is freedom. On my most challenging of days, this is what I try to remember. These students are fighting for something so basic, something to which they are entitled but which is obscured by obstacle after obstacle.

This student in particular has so internalized this idea that education is freedom, that she began volunteering as a mentor for younger students in her community, helping them with everything from homework to standing up to the voracious monsters that rear their ugly heads in the lives of too many of our young people. Her empathy for others and desire to pave the way for and help more young people arrive at the success she’s struggled to find over the years is so encouraging to those who have been charged with the education of this child. When we see a student go out to love and serve the world in this way, it stands as a tangible reminder of why we do what we do: a student has had her heart and mind touched by the power of a quality education, by the nurturing love and care of her teachers and mentors, and has taken the next step on her own. None of us told her to volunteer in her local community center, to participate in service trips with the youth ministry group, to give back to the organizations that helped set her on the right path. She simply is doing what she thinks is just, necessary, and wise. This student tells me she wants to study youth development or social work, with the hope of coming back to her neighborhood in Portland and making it a safer, healthier, and happier environment for the next generation of youth.

This is one of the reasons we are proud of our students, enthusiastic and optimistic about their futures, and take great satisfaction from our work, challenging and sometimes endless as it may seem.  Yes, our students may be disadvantaged and underserved, but they are not helpless or hopeless. Some of them are up against every single odd you or I could conjure, but they are also stronger and braver than I could ever have pictured. They are passionate and dedicated about everything that they do, working hard every day to achieve their dreams, laugh at the darkness, and make a brighter day possible. All of this begins with the sort of education offered by DLSN and other schools where LV’s serve. This is why we are where we are; this is why we do what we do. We do have a grand goal, an idealized vision of the “bigger picture” in which we establish equality, break down barriers to success, act out of a spirit of unity, contribute positively to society, and build a global community. Yes, service is about that, but it’s really about people, like this student, who are going into the war and will come out victorious. Maybe nobody ever told them they were born to win, to overcome, to conquer every challenge, but this is why we are here—to encourage and to witness every day they take one step closer to their own goals. It is through education focused on the “full development of the human personality” That they are able to do this. Through these first steps of educating and caring for the whole person, we can together arrive at the broad goals enshrined in the UDHR of increased “respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, …understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, …and the maintenance of peace.” [i]

Mairead McNameeKing, 12-13, De La Salle North Catholic High School, Portland, OR

 


 [i] with 48 in favor, 0 against, and 8 abstentions.

[ii] Mary Ann Glendon, “The Rule of Law in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” 2. Retrieved on 9 November 2012 from http://www.law.northwestern.edu/journals/jihr/v2/5/5.pdf.

[iii] http://www.un.org/en/events/humanrightsday/2011/about.shtml

[v] Mary Ann Glendon, “The Rule of Law in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” 2-3.

[vi] Mary Ann Glendon, quoting René Cassin in “The Rule of Law in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” 3.

[viii] De La Salle North Catholic High School: http://www.delasallenorth.org/about-us/

By |December 10th, 2012|Categories: blog, news + events|1 Comment

2013-2014 Request for LVs has been released!

December 4, 2012

Dear Lasallian Volunteers Community and Site Director,

With the end of 2012 rapidly approaching comes the recognition that it is time to begin planning for the next service year. We have spent the past semester on the road in search of volunteers for all of our renewing and new Lasallian Volunteers sites and communities. In order to better serve you, we ask that you complete a new Application for a Lasallian Volunteer. Having this information helps us communicate to our prospective volunteers the needs that exist throughout the country. We appreciate the time you give to this document.

Please read the enclosed materials closely.  The completed Application — parts one and two with the necessary signatures on the final page – is due to the Lasallian Volunteers office on February 15, 2013.

Attached you will find the Application Packet for Lasallian Volunteers:

  1. Blank copy of Application for Lasallian Volunteers for 2013-2014
    (Due February 15, 2013)
  2. The Lasallian Volunteers Policies and Procedures document
    This will be handed out to potential Lasallian Volunteers and discussed during their interview.  (Please note: this is a revised document that has undergone significant changes and please share with all community members. Also, it is likely that our retreat series will be further changing and developing for the 2013-2014 Service Year. We will keep you apprised as this develops.) Please contact jwagner@cbconf.org to receive this document.
  3. Financial Considerations Form
    (for your reference and planning purposes)
  4. Site Director and Lasallian Volunteer Contract
    (for future use)
  5. Lasallian Volunteer Site/Community Visit Checklist
    (for your reference; this is given to volunteer by LV staff before visit in May/June)
  6. A Checklist for Healthy LV Sites and Communities
    (for your reference and planning purposes)

Even if you are an existing site/community that completed this form last year, we ask that you take a moment to fill this application out again as we have added important information to this document and you may have a few changes. If you do not complete and submit a new application, your placement will not be considered for Lasallian Volunteers for the 2013-2014 Service Year.

If you would prefer a hard copy of the above documents please contact us and we will mail you the documents.

Important note: Directors of sites and communities seeking Lasallian Volunteers must have the approval of the District Administration before submitting an application. Please contact the Director of Lasallian Volunteers, Jolleen Wagner, if you have questions about this.

Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns!

Thank you for all that you do in support of the Lasallian Volunteers program!

Jolleen Wagner      Kimberly Williams          Andrew Blythe         Peter Tooher        Zac Ufnar

By |December 7th, 2012|Categories: Uncategorized|Comments Off on 2013-2014 Request for LVs has been released!

December 2012: Jennifer Coe

Service Site: Martin de Porres Casa de la Salle

University: University of Notre Dame, B.A. in Psychology

What do you do?
I tell my students that as their case manager, my job is to get on their case! Joking aside, that actually sums up my duties quite well, and no day is ever the same as a result. Casa de le Salle is a residential school, and there are three sets of staff – educational, residential, and social services – that work to keep our kids in school and to prepare them for responsible adulthood. I try to make communication among the three branches cohesive by attentively interacting with the students whenever I can. If Timmy was sleeping in his first class, defiant in his second, and quiet at lunch, I talk to his social worker and let his floor supervisor know so we can figure out what is going on and brainstorm how to help him. At least weekly I support the teachers and aides in the classroom as they work to focus and engage our students. Sometimes I take students to medical appointments or for evaluations at the hospital. I also help the social workers communicate with the parents and take part in milieu counseling.

Jennifer helping out in an English class

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 I could give my students is hope – they need someone who will never give up. In every moment of every day, never giving up in a student shows that he is a person of worth; that there is hope that he can change. Our students have had adults in their lives say to them in words or attitude, “you’re dumb, you’re a delinquent, you’ll never get anywhere.” When we help them refocus in class, when we discreetly remind them to pull up their pants, when we follow-up about their struggles in a genuine way, these actions reinforce that we believe that they are more than what the world assumes they are. When we treat each of them as an individual we respect, not a crazy kid past the point of no return, their hearts open to our efforts to help them.

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

Jennifer with a Martin De Porres teacher

Ave Crux, Spes Unica, “Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope.” As my volunteering year progresses, I’ve felt a strong and growing need to turn to the image of Christ crucified in prayer. I need hope to hope for my students. I need that ultimate example of self-sacrificial love to inspire me to give a little more in the moments when I want to hold back. Hope is the most important thing I can give my students, and looking to the Lord helps grow my capacity for hope.

Give an example of a time when you knew you were making a difference.Good relationships, with this population, build from both the good and the bad interactions. If a student takes time to be upset with you and work out his emotions that means you’re building a relationship and making a difference. One student approached me after Science, accusing me of not understanding his struggles in class and favoring the teacher’s pet. That confrontation means that he trusted me enough to share his frustration, instead of taking it out in an immature or inappropriate way. I mattered enough to him that it was worth his trouble to approach me about his problems with me.

The community gathers for a Fall Celebration


What would you say to a friend from home who questioned why you chose to live with the Brothers?
I am the kind of person who needs people to go home to, who thrives in a family setting. I chose to be a Lasallian Volunteer precisely because of the type of family setting it could provide. I get to pray and eat dinner daily with Brothers who have years of experience working with students like mine, and who have dedicated their lives to service. I am so thankful for the blessing of community now because my Brothers and fellow volunteer in Freeport challenge me intellectually, our consistency of prayer anchors me, and I have the opportunity to put others’ needs before mine in a consistent way. Best of all, I have four people to pester with my tragically corny jokes and constant need for attention!

By |December 3rd, 2012|Categories: lv of the month, news + events|1 Comment