Yearly Archives: 2013

­

Molly B. Allen: The Christmas Concert

Molly Allen, 13-14, DeLaSalle High School, Minneapolis, MN

Molly Allen, 13-14, DeLaSalle High School, Minneapolis, MN

“Alright, great I am glad that you like the program and the community. Now are you ready to hear the location?”

All of the different locations of the LV program flashed through my head. My fingers were crossed in hopes that I would be placed somewhere awesome like Chicago or Brooklyn or maybe even staying on the West Coast somewhere.

“Yep. Bring it on.”

“Minneapolis, Minnesota.”

Pause.

“Haha. What?”

Minnesota? Seriously? There was no way that I was going to go from sunny, warm, beautiful northern California to the frozen tundra of the US! I could not respond right away because my brain was having issues processing the possibility of moving to Minnesota.

“Molly, you do know that you do not have to respond right away. Give me a call in a few days after you have had time to think about it and let me know what you decide.”

A few days later I called Jolleen and accepted the position of Campus Minister at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

I have now been at DeLaSalle for almost six months and I feel like I have been here for years. The faculty and staff have been so supportive and some of the best role models that I have had. The students, though some times rather annoying, are amazing, talented, and just all around great kids. Not only has everyone been welcoming and supportive, I feel like I have been accepted by a loving family whose main goal is not to see themselves succeed, but rather to see their students succeed.

Last week I attended the Christmas concert that our choir and band presents to celebrate the holiday season. I was not originally planning on going because it had been an exhausting day and I all I really wanted to do was to read, all snuggled up in my bed, and fall asleep. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. I was coerced by my fellow volunteers to head over for a half hour and then we would all head back to the house. I grabbed my coat, bundled up, and we made our way to the school.

Not wanting to be seen, the other volunteers and I snuck up into the balcony of our auditorium/cafeteria and sat in the corner hidden from sight. As we waited for the show to begin, I kept looking around at all of the students that were involved with either the choir or band. I believe we have close to two hundred students involved with those programs. The students came out in their concert attire followed by two of their teachers who were dressed to the nines in their tuxedos and polished shoes.

The students took some time to get situated, but you could tell that they were excited to be there. The coolest part of the performers getting ready to sing and play was watching the teachers. At times it seemed that the teachers were more excited than the students! The students fed off of their energy and that energy made for a great performance.

To me being part of a staff that cares about their students so much is one of the most rewarding things about serving as a Lasallian Volunteer. Sure there are days where it is a little crazy around the office and school, but at the end of the day, you remember that you are all in it together.

Since I have been here, several people have asked me, “Molly, if you could describe your LV experience so far in one word, what would it be?”

Challenging.

The weather has been a challenge, learning a new job, remembering names, attempting to not jam the copier when there is a line of about three or four teachers behind me has been a challenge that I am still trying to overcome, and the list goes on and on. Like everyone else at some point in their service year, I have had good days and I have had bad days. When I first moved here, I was not sure if I was going to be able to make it through the year, but then something like the Christmas concert happens. Watching the students, my students, perform and seeing the enthusiasm radiating from the teachers and seeing how much they love what they do makes everything, even living out here in negative degree weather, worth it.

I know that I have said this a thousand times, but I just wanted to thank all of the teachers that have had me in class or have worked with me in some capacity. You have all been an inspiration to me. I have learned so much from all of you and I learned that even if it is  -12F as the high temperature, that you are not in it for you, you are in it for the students.

“To touch the hearts of your students is the greatest miracle you can perform.” – Saint John Baptist de la Salle

Molly is a current 1st year LV serving at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, MN and is a 2013 graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California.

By |December 23rd, 2013|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Molly B. Allen: The Christmas Concert

Tony Rivera: The LV Bus Ride: Living with Our Vulnerabilities (Bugs and All)

Tony Rivera, 13-14, De La Salle North Catholic, Portland, OR

Tony Rivera, 13-14, De La Salle North Catholic, Portland, OR

One of the most difficult themes in the Gospels for a recent college graduate to embrace is the premium Jesus places on childlike simplicity. After four years of study, study, study and achieve, achieve, achieve, all in preparation for entering “the adult world,” it’s not very intuitive to look at children and think, “There! A model for me to follow!” Oftentimes I’ve found my impulse to be quite the opposite. We live in a world that spends a lot of energy glorifying “adult” maturity and in doing so I think we forget that, like children, we never truly escape a certain level of dependence on something greater than ourselves.

For this reason, it’s very humbling to recognize that there are plenty of things that still make me feel like a child even at the bustlin’ “adult” age of 23. And, like it or not, these childish moments pop up even in the line of duty of being an LV.

Take my fear of wasps, for example. Make no mistake, I am terrified of them. Everything about wasps scares me—the cold humming sound they make, the ungraceful/irregular way that they buzz around, and the fact that they sting you when angry. For you Harry Potter fans out there, if I ever had the misfortune of running into a boggart (that strange magical creature that morphs into whatever you fear the most) there is no question that it would turn into a hive of angry wasps the moment it saw me approaching.

Which is why, in the course of my bus-driving duties at De La Salle North Catholic High School in Portland, OR, I was rather dismayed when I had the following exchange with a student:

“Mr. Rivera!”

I was at the front wheel when I called back: “Yeah…what’s up, Alex?”

A pregnant pause.

“There’s a giant wasp in this bus!”  

My body went numb and my mind didn’t quite register what my ears had heard. It took a few moments for it to sink in: A wasp in the bus? A wasp in the bus. A wasp in the bus! Instantly my attention fell on my driving. I became ominously aware of the fact that I was in control of a giant tank of a vehicle going 50 miles an hour on the highway. Sitting alone in the back was a 13-year-old girl, whose safety I was squarely responsible for, and right next to her was a wasp. For most people this is nothing. For me this is “Houston, we have a problem.”

And for Alex, this was a disaster.

“Mr. Rivera,” she cried again, “stop the bus! Call the school! This is a disaster! We can’t keep driving with this giant thing here. Oh, it moved. Pull over!!”

“Take it easy, Alex,” I said with artificial indifference, “it’s not going to hurt you.”

I felt restless realizing I couldn’t say much more.

“Mr. Rivera! I’m scared! This thing is right in front of me! What if it starts flying around?”

The thought of a wasp buzzing in front of my face while driving a school bus on the highway was admittedly enough for me to pull over. Maybe, I thought, we could open a window and the thing would just fly away. In any case, poor Alex was having an awful time.

As we came off the highway, I stopped in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven and Alex shot out the door. As she kept pleading with me to call the school (a little premature, I thought), I got out and gingerly walked up to the window where the wasp was perched. Yep, I thought, a big one. How is this thing alive in late November?

For most people, I guess, this kind of incident should be over in seconds. I wish I could say my decision-making process was in high gear at this moment, but this generally isn’t true whenever I’m scared. There are a million very simple things that someone in my position could have done to end this farce—not the least of which include taking a newspaper and whack, or at least opening a window and seeing if this thing flies off. I’m sure that the real odds of Alex or myself getting stung were in the single digits. But hey, I was now supposedly the adult in this absurd scenario where an oblivious little insect had managed to leave a bus driver and his student stranded in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven at eight in the morning.

But this moment went deeper: the one person whose world was falling apart faster than mine was Alex. I looked at her and knew that she felt utterly helpless. For her this wasn’t a nuisance or an uncomfortable inconvenience. For her 13-year-old mind this was a disaster. She was starting to tear up.

And so that left me with the need to suck it up and deal with our little friend. I poked my head in the bus and saw that the wasp had taken off in flight and buzzed toward the back. I went around, opened the back door, and took another look. The wasp laid motionless against the window.

I then noticed a broom laying on floor, so with my eyes fixed on the wasp my hand reached for the broom. I then took aim. One strong thrust and maybe I could kill it.

Like a trembling child, I took a whack at the wasp. I didn’t quite kill it—on the contrary I seemed to have given it new life as it took off into the air again. But, lo and behold, it flew right past me and flew freely into the morning air without incident.

Crisis averted.

Part of me wondered later that morning: how would other people have dealt with this situation? Would they have kept driving with the wasp in the bus? Would they have just walked to the back and killed it with their shoe? (Or with their bare hands??) Would they have been scared like me? Or would it have taken them half as long to solve the incident as it took me? Did I handle Wasp-gate in the best way possible?

On one level, these questions reflect the embarrassment of being scared of something as harmless as a little wasp at an adult age. I couldn’t help but think that whenever one is responsible for a scared student, one’s own fears shouldn’t get in the way. To be scared is to be no better than a child.

And yet, I realize now that sometimes, we’ll just have to get by with our own childlike vulnerabilities. Long after my time as an LV is complete, I suspect I’ll never be the fearless adult in the room (or bus) 100% of the time. To ignore this is to lose touch with our own human frailty. And for what it’s worth, it was my crippling fear that allowed me to share this moment with Alex in a fresh, genuine way that I probably would not have experienced otherwise. We now joke about that morning. At the very least it has allowed me to look back warmly and fondly at that absurd incident.

But even so, I have no idea how that wasp managed to live till late November. For all I know, it’s still out there somewhere, waiting.

Tony Rivera is a first year LV serving at De La Salle North Catholic in Portlant, Oregon and is a 2013 graduate of the University of Notre Dame.

By |December 16th, 2013|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Tony Rivera: The LV Bus Ride: Living with Our Vulnerabilities (Bugs and All)

Megan McShane: Making Connections

Megan McShane, 13-14, De La Salle Middle School, St. Louis, MO

Megan McShane, 13-14, De La Salle Middle School, St. Louis, MO

If a year ago you had told me that I would be living in North St. Louis teaching 7th grade Religion, I probably would have thought you were crazy. Joining the Lasallian Volunteers has completely changed my expectations of post-college life and I could not be happier. One of the most rewarding experiences I have had through my time at De La Salle Middle School at St. Matthew’s is teaching a Religion class. Through this class, I try to connect the readings in the New Testament to students’ lives. At first, it was challenge to get students to think deeply on the issues presented in the Bible but as the year has progressed, students have developed thoughtful and inspiring associations between Jesus’ story and their own.

One of the most powerful connections that one of my students created happened while we were discussing the Beatitudes.  We were focusing on the Beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and one of my students eloquently tied this verse to life at De La Salle. She expressed that at DLS people come into school with different beliefs, backgrounds, faith but through the prayer and support of our school, students are able to find a deeper connection to God. This statement took me by surprise and really made me reflect on my experience at DLS. I realized in this moment that De La Salle Middle School is not a typical educational institute. This school goes above and beyond what is necessary to make sure that every student gets a quality education while also being nurtured by our caring staff. I have gone through really difficult, anxiety-filled days at De La Salle but I would not change my experience as a Lasallian Volunteer for anything. The great days when my students finally understand a difficult topic or make me laugh uncontrollably are the moments that I will remember the most. This school and the students that I have met have changed my life for the better. Now that I am getting close to the midyear mark of my 1st year, I am relishing in my decision of becoming an LV.

Megan McShane is a current first year LV serving at De La Salle Middle School at St. Matthew’s in St. Louis, Missouri and is a 2013 graduate of Manhattan College.

By |December 4th, 2013|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Megan McShane: Making Connections

December 2013: Dan Monroe

Service Site: San Miguel Middle School Tulsa, OK

Dan Monroe

Dan Monroe

University: University of Nevada-Las Vegas

What do you do?

I teach 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Social Studies.

Was there a moment where you felt accepted by your community/staff/clients/students?

One of the most striking moments of my service year so far occurred during what San Miguel calls a “Learning Team Meeting” (our version of a parent teacher conference). The mother of one of our students looked me straight in the eyes and told me that she has sacrificed so much for her daughter and that all she wanted was a better life for her. Suddenly, tears started to roll down her face as she began to tell me that even though she hardly knew anything about me, she could never repay me for what I have done for her daughter. I asked her, what have I done? She responded, “you have given your life for my child, and I will always be grateful”. In that moment, I grabbed her hand, and we cried tears of joy. In that precious and most intimate interaction, I truly felt the love she had for her child. St. John Baptist De La Salle once said, that the greatest miracle we could do was to touch the hearts of those entrusted to our care. In the moment I shared with that grateful parent, I realized that my heart was the one being touched-because I am the one that has been entrusted to the care and service of the community of San Miguel Middle School.

Give an example of a time when you knew you were making a difference.

I love the Olympics. I love everything about it. Ever since I was a child, the Olympics have held magical status in my eyes. You can imagine, that with the Winter Olympics coming up in 2014, I have already introduced the Olympics to my students (most have never even heard of it). Besides introducing the official symbol of the Olympics (the 5 rings), I began to tell my students of its official motto-Stronger, Higher, Faster. As a class, we discussed the multiple meanings contained in those three words. One of my 8th graders confided in me, “Mr. Monroe, how can I be stronger, higher and faster? I’m not good, your tests are hard, and I’m just not smart”. I looked at him and said, “Who told you, you’re no good”?

He replied, “No one ever told me that I could be the best, all the other kids are smarter than me”. I said, “Don’t mind anyone else. Concentrate on your personal best. I believe in you.” On the next test he took, he wrote next to his name in big bold letters: I am Stronger, Higher, Faster. He scored a 100% on it. He came up to me the next day, and said in front of the class- “Mr. Monroe, I just want to say, you are the most inspiring teacher I have ever had, thank you!” Before I could reply, one student shouted out, “I know that’s right” and then the entire class started to cheer and clap.

How have you seen the face of God in your students?

Dan teaching

One day, as the students were lining up to be dismissed, a student asked me for my blessing. I said, “really, why me? I’m not a priest!” He said, “I know you’re not, but you’re my teacher!” He put his backpack down and bowed his head. At that moment, a profound sense of gratitude and humility pervaded my heart. In the face of my student, I saw the face God. All his hopes and aspirations were expressed in the most profound way in his gesture of reverence. I truly believe in that moment, God came in the person of a child to ask for my own blessing.

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

Don’t knock it, until you try it! Living in intentional community with the brothers has been such an awesome and unique experience. The Brothers truly live up to their very names as Brothers—they are witnesses of our Charism and companions in our life journey.

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

Be radical! Be counter cultural! Don’t look for answers in the hottest fads or trends. As quick as something comes, as quick as it will go away. Set your heart on what is true and lasting-in service to others you find depth and meaning that you never felt before. The LV program is truly a chance of a lifetime, a chance to grow, mature and stand in solidarity with the people.

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

The motto of the Lasallians is “Signum Fidei” (Sign of Faith). Truly, the LV program is a “Sign of Faith”. Its volunteers, young people from across the nation, give up some of their most precious years to stand in solidarity with the poor and marginalized. The future belongs in the hands of the youth. The LV program equips and empowers its volunteers to turn the current world view on its head. It dares to say, that the poor and marginalized have every right not just to a better future, but to a life filled with dignity and purpose.

How would you like to continue your involvement with the Lasallian family after your time with the Lasallian Volunteers?

I would like to continue to live out the Lasallian Charism as a teacher. I am currently discerning the religious life and wherever I am called, my hope is that I can continue to serve and love others.

By |December 2nd, 2013|Categories: lv of the month, news + events|7 Comments

Catie McNamara: When One Door Closes Another One Opens

Catie McNamara, 13-14, Tides Family Service, West Warwick, RI

Catie McNamara, 13-14, Tides Family Service, West Warwick, RI

If you would have asked me last year what I planned to do after graduation, I would have responded with going to Africa or finding a job in a Church as a Youth Minister. I did not think about becoming a Lasallian Volunteer until recruiters came to Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and talked about the program. As I completed my application, the more excited I became. Before I knew it reality struck, and I was offered a position to be a Lasallian Volunteer.

If I had to describe my experience in one word it would be: electrifying, in every way. When I was told I was going to be placed in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, working for Tides Family Services I did not know what to think. Thoughts running through my head were: “Smallest state, what is there to do? Tides Family Services, what’s that? Living with four other LVs and a Christian Brother… I don’t know about that”. After my site visit I could feel that I was being called to the Program. I fell in love with Tides immediately and wanted to start immediately.

Tides Family Services is a wonderful organization that serves high-risk youth in Rhodes Island, founded by Brother Michael Reis, in 1983. Those we serve face many challenges and issues. As a Lasallian Volunteer, my job is to track and visit those from Tides. I am part of a three-person team, between the three of us we track 15-33 youth at any time. When I first heard about those we serve and my role in the agency I wasn’t so sure if I was the right person for the job. However, the more time I spend with those I serve and learn more about the mission of Tides Family Services the more I fall in love with my role as a Case Manager. Everyday I spend time building relationships with both the parents and clients. Tides is an impactful agency that has statistically made a difference in the lives of those we serve.

I may not be every client’s favorite Case Manager, I may not be able to prevent all my clients from being placed, or put into training schools. One thing I do know as a wise person one told me, “It’s the little things in life that count, it’s the little things in life that people remember.” I may not make a difference everyday, but if one little thing that I do can put a smile on my clients face I know that I’m on the right path to making a difference in their lives. That smile means something. As Thich Naht Hanh once said, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” Being an LV and serving at Tides is a joy. It truly is electrifying in many different ways. As I made my decision to become an LV I thought one door was closing. However, I did not realize an even bigger one filled with an immense amount of opportunities was about to open.

Catie McNamara is a current first year LV serving in West Warwick, Rhode Island at Tides Family Services and a 2012 graduate of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

By |November 26th, 2013|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Catie McNamara: When One Door Closes Another One Opens