Monthly Archives: September 2013

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Katie Worsdale: The Unknown Adventure

Katie Worsdale, 13-14, De La Salle North Catholic, Portland, OR

August 21, 2009… “When you were born, just as with your siblings, I promised myself that I would let you fly free when the time was right… and here we are as you take flight to the next adventure in your life to lead you to your desired destination. May you keep your goals before you and travel this road toward independence knowing we’re still here” (Kathy Worsdale).

Before I address this quote, I would like to give a quick shout out to my father who will be celebrating his birthday today. Happy birthday, dad! I miss you and hope you have a great day!

Now to the piece of resistance. For those of you who do not know, the quote above was written to me on a card when I went to college four years ago. This card was given to me by Kathy, who is otherwise known as my wonderful, loving mother. The card has traveled with me from the East Coast to the West Coast for countless miles, and this year it has decided to make the trip again. Family is something I value tremendously, and I love every minute I get to spend with them. Being far away from home and family is scary, and often I find myself questioning why I do it. But with the distance and time, I have come to learn that there is family out there I have not even met yet.

People are probably wondering what I mean by that statement. Your family can’t be that big right? Well I do come from a family where there are a lot of people, but the kin I think of now is completely different. A major component of the Lasallian Volunteers includes community living. Right now, our community is composed of four volunteers, two community directors, a teacher and of course our dog. Each of us brings a diverse background and different opinions to our environment. But the one thought we all have in common is that we are not just living in a house together. This is not a college dorm. Yes, we did choose to live in an intentional community. No, we are not crazy…well maybe just a little bit. But the one idea all of us share is that our community is a family.

Without embracing the distance, I would have never found my new family. At first, I was afraid. To be completely honest, I always carry a little bit of fear. But my mom, dad and siblings always encourage me to keep going on adventures. Through the journeys of the past, I have found the true definition of family. They will be there whenever, always have your back and forever be in your heart. Looking at the new members of my family, my anxiety is dissipated. The community makes up another home that I have the pleasure to reside in. Life has a way of bringing people into your world that teach you what you need to know at the time. The individuals in my community continue to demonstrate that family comes in various ways and from many different places.

Before I part, there was one more thought I had when reflecting upon my experience as a LV thus far. Besides having a home away from home, I thought a lot about the unknowns associated with this program. It can be nerve-racking to be in new situations in general. The LV program is extremely demanding, and the year can be very unpredictable. But with the unfamiliar comes education and opportunity. For the next year, I will carry not only the words of my mother, but also Neil Gaiman:

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something. So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever” (Neil Gaiman).

Katie Worsdale, 13-14, De La Salle North Catholic, Portland, OR

By |September 23rd, 2013|Categories: blog, news + events|2 Comments

Jen Coe: Our Shared Humanity

Jen Coe, 12-14, Martin De Porres, Queens, NY

I sat with my student as we waited for the ER nurse to call him up. “Jonathan” went AWOL on his home visit, leaving his mother and older sister in a panic for 24 hours until he wandered home exhausted but otherwise fine. He’s mentally impaired and his mother worries that he could get taken advantage of, hurt, or even killed on the frequent occasions when he absconds on a home visit to attend the neighborhood parties, clubs, and pool halls all night and well into the following day.

It took 20 minutes of coaxing and three adult women (his mother, my co-worker, and I) to get Jonathan into the school car and to the emergency room. Officially, it’s protocol for students to go to the hospital after an AWOL incident, to run tests for any substances they may have imbibed and to get a physical so we know they are returning to school uninjured.  Unofficially, the tedious wait in the emergency room gives an opportunity for staff to ease the student from a state of wild freedom to mild structure and responsibility before the student returns to the program.  

I sat frustrated and fed-up: this was Jonathan’s first home visit after weeks of consequences for his last AWOL adventure, and he blew it! Just the week before, I pleaded with his mother on the phone to give him a chance for another visit. Now I looked the optimistic, foolish intern! All of a sudden, as if he heard my thoughts, Jonathan turned and said to me “Jen, when I was in that pool hall and it turned 6pm, I heard two voices. One said, ‘You need to go home’ and the other said ‘You should stay.’ And I listened to the wrong voice … I keep making the same mistake…”

My frustration crumbled with his admission of guilt. Jonathan, as are all the students at Casa De La Salle, is classified as “emotionally disturbed” by the New York State Board of Education. They earn this dramatic title essentially by doing so poorly in regular education and public special education schools that they need to live in the same building in which they go to school for five to seven days a week. Some of them do poorly because they are developing severe symptoms of mental illness, such as hearing voices, many because they have lower IQ’s (on the lower 2% of the bell curve), some because they have low impulse control and cannot focus for even a short period of time without great external help, and all have highly fractured home lives.  I hate the title “emotionally disturbed” because of the stigma and because each student looks so different from the other in terms of behavior, struggles, and strengths.

Jonathan’s mention of hearing the two voices didn’t set off my “we need to call the psychiatrist” alarms. It pulled me down to earth. It reminded me of our shared humanity. It was one of those moments where I wished it wasn’t inappropriate for a 23-year-old case manager to give her 20-year-old student a big-old-rib-cracking hug.

I told Jonathan that everyone hears those two voices in tough situations; we continually face choices between what we ought and ought not to do. He did not make the right decision that evening, but he at least saw the two options, and knew the wrong from the right. That is what it means to be human: to have these types of decisions and to struggle everyday with them. We just have to pick ourselves up each time we choose wrong, face the consequences, and try to do a little better on the next go ‘round.

My students are emotionally disturbed, but what that means first and foremost is not that they have mental illness, bad father figures, or uncontrollable hyperactivity without medication. It means most of all that they are human beings who need more structure than average to help them make the right decisions in school, on the weekends, in life overall.

Jonathan has AWOL’ed  multiple times since, but I’m trying not to let my frustration affect his treatment. It’s his Achilles heel, and we all have one or two (or twelve) of them. The Lord’s Prayer tells us to forgive others as we want to be forgiven. I find myself listening to the “wrong voice” far too often, and I’m not the one with a label from the State of New York. Jonathan and I are more alike than we are different. We’re going to try to work as a team – staff, mother, and especially Jonathan- to help him listen to the right voice each time we trust him to take a new chance. It’s an honor that my service position constantly gives me the opportunity to help someone in that way.

 Jen Coe, 12-14, Martin De Porres, Queens, NY

By |September 17th, 2013|Categories: blog, news + events|1 Comment

September 2013: Kenenna Amuzie

Kenenna Amuzie

Service Site: San Miguel High School in Tucson

 University: University of Notre Dame

What do you do? As one of the LVs at San Miguel, I work in the Campus Ministry and College Counseling Offices. In campus ministry I coordinate our border immersion experiences called El Otro Lado and assist with some of the class retreats, namely the Freshman Retreat. I also lead Lasallian Youth, which is our main service group on campus.  El Otro Lado, which means “the other side”, is an opportunity for San Miguel students and other Lasallian students from around the country to come to Tucson and learn more about the immigration issue through five day long immersion trips. My work in college counseling consists of aiding seniors with the college application process.  Additionally, I work with the College Counselor to expose underclassmen to the college readiness process because we believe that the college process begins in the first year of high school. Aside from my work in these offices, I assist with the Senior Class Council and a mentoring program that involves our Freshman and Senior students.

What is the most important “thing,” do you think, that your students need from you?  What do you do to try to provide this? Presence. That is the most important thing that my students and service site need from me.  At dinner the other night one of the Brothers made mention of what he called “the ministry of presence” and that reminds me of why I am here. I can try and “help” my students and school but if I am simply going through the motions without being present to my students and co-workers then there is no point to the “help” that I am trying to render. I try to be present to both my students and co-workers by giving of my time generously yet intentionally. One way I try to be present to my students in college counseling is by continually reminding them that I am here if they want to go over their personal statements. During the immersion experiences, no matter how tired I may be after a long day, I endeavor to spend some time with the students to get to know them better. These evening moments after all of our activities and reflections for each day have been one of the best community building moments for San Miguel students on the immersions and for the visiting schools. One way I hope to be more fully present to the students is by attending a few more sporting and other afterschool events this year. I strongly believe that by being present to my students and colleagues I can share my experiences with them while also learning from their insights and experiences.

 What have you discovered about poverty from your work? Something that my time as a Lasallian Volunteer has affirmed in me is the belief that one of the surest ways out of poverty is through education. I recently learned that Tucson is ranked the sixth poorest metropolitan area in the country. This information made me even more grateful that a school like San Miguel exists here in Tucson and I am able to play a small role in such a wonderful mission of providing an affordable Catholic Education to such an economically challenged area.  A phrase that has recently gained much significance here at San Miguel are the words Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve. Even though a majority of our students come from challenging circumstances, they do not need to let themselves be limited by them. Rather, they can get the tools necessary (through taking advantage of their education) to come back and be the agents of change that Tucson and our world so desperately needs. In taking my students to different service projects, I try to get them to go beyond the feel good one gets from doing good to question why things are the way that they are and then look for ways that they can be a part of the solution.

Which of the core values (Faith, Community, Service) are most important to you?  Why? Faith, Service and Community…these core values were highly emphasized on the application to become a Lasallian Volunteer. Now that I have lived these three principles in a very purposeful way during my time as a Lasallian Volunteer, they each hold a special meaning for me. If I had to choose the most important of the three values, I would say that in many ways, they are all very significant. For me, faith is an expression of one’s relationship with God. Community life has been one of the bed-rocks of my LV experience. Dinners and time with community allows me to step out of myself and leave any worries from my site behind. Living in community with the Brothers and my fellow volunteers has allowed me to grow in many ways while challenging me to take greater ownership of my faith. Community life and service are some of the most fundamental ways we can express this relationship with God. In some situations where my faith in a given situation is dwindling, simple moments in community become the fuel that reignites the fire of faith that leads me to continue serving. Though, all three core values are in many respects equally important, I think faith often times acts as the impetus that leads us to serve and directs us to seek community. Even though faith can serve as the beginning, it cannot stand on its own because its sustenance comes through community and service.

Why would you recommend the LV program to a college senior considering volunteering? Becoming a Lasallian Volunteer is by far one of the best decisions I made in my life thus far.  If you are a senior in college considering post-grad service, my question for you would be, “why not Lasallian Volunteers?” The Lasallian Volunteers are an amazing group of people from diverse backgrounds and experiences, with one unifying identity, the desire to serve. Lasallian Volunteers has taught me that service can come in different forms, but the best kind of service is that which transforms you as you are doing the work that you do. I am not done growing or changing, but I can certainly say that my time as an LV has stretched me for the better. If you want to do work that allows you to touch and transform the minds and hearts of your students and clients then give Lasallian Volunteers a closer look. Look closer and make what I hope will be one of the best decisions of your life.

Live Jesus in Our Hearts, Forever!

By |September 3rd, 2013|Categories: lv of the month, news + events|1 Comment

Whitney Wozniak: Ragnar

Whitney Wozniak, 12-14, Brother David Darst Center, Chicago, IL

This past weekend I decided, along with three other LVs and six other what I will now call brave individuals, to partake in a Ragnar Relay Series from Winona, MN to Minneapolis, MN. Yep, that’s correct, across Minnesota and through Wisconsin. Yes, that’s about 200 miles. No, I am not lying. And no, I am not crazy. I signed up for this race not only as an extension of my new-found love for running (thanks to the LV program), but also to challenge myself in a completely new way, getting the opportunity to bond with the amazing LV women who would run with me. Everyone on our team ran three different legs across the wide expanses of the Midwest, up hills, down hills, across lakes, up more hills, through the night, and through the heat in order to finish the race that would enable us to call ourselves Ragnar champions. What I did not expect was that a race such as this directly translates to my experience as an LV. Here’s what I learned along the dirt and very long country roads of the Midwest as they may or may not pertain to the LV experience:

1. Don’t Give Up. Even when it’s 90 degrees, your leg feels like it could split open at any minute, and your teammates lovingly tell you that you still have 2.7 miles of your 7-mile, third leg left to run, just keep running. It’s okay to walk. Others are walking, too. Even in your toughest moments, someone is always there to walk with you and the benefits of pushing through the hardest parts of your journey lead to learning the most about yourself, feeling pride in your work, and leaving you with a sense of accomplishment that no one else can feel except for those who are on the journey with you.

2. Utilize Your Team for Support. It’s okay to admit when you need help. The journey is tough and the journey is long. When you know that your next hill is over a mile, anticipate this and ask your teammates to meet you at the end of the hill for water, Gatorade, Icy-Hot to dull the pain, a hug, or just a breather. It’s really easy to over-extend yourself, and depending on the people who are there to support you can be the ultimate, dangerous difference between getting hurt or making it successfully to the finish line. Anticipate the difficult parts of your run, knowing they will inevitably be there, and share this with your teammates, because they are the most equipped to help you out when you’re in the middle of a difficult situation.

Kayla Bryson-Tucker, Julia Walsh, Whitney Wozniak, & Megan Davison

3.Take a Moment for Yourself. During Ragnar other runners, people cheering you on, and your teammates in your van constantly surround you. While it’s great to constantly be surrounded by other people, sometimes you just need a minute to reflect and run by yourself to focus on what’s coming next. If it’s the second leg and you’re running near Stillwater, WI at five a.m., watching the sun as it creeps over the hills in front of you with no one else in sight, turn off Luke Bryan blasting in your ears and just revel in the moment. Take in the silence and the beauty of nature, being absolutely alone with no one to bother you. These moments are rare, but they are beautiful and necessary. Don’t take these moments for granted.

4.Finally, trust that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. When you sign up for a race that may leave your family and friends questioning your sanity, trust your gut that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Signing up for such a rare race as Ragnar, there are definitely questions that come to mind along the lines of…Am I strong enough to do this? Am I prepared to do this? Am I well equipped to do this? Did I make the right decision in doing this race? The answer is yes. It may not be clear at the time, when you’ve run 10 of your nearly 16 miles and you don’t have much energy left and you haven’t gotten enough rest and people are depending on you to give your fair share and you want to cry and the list goes on. However, a wise Brother once told me that if you’re having doubts about whether or not you made the right decision, all you need to do is look down at your two feet, and trust in God that this is exactly where you are supposed to be, exactly at this moment. Keep looking at those two feet that have run miles in those shoes to prepare you for such a race, and trust that God’s plan for you has led you to the middle of nowhere Wisconsin to finish a race that you never imagined you would partake in in the first place.

Ragnar Team Shot!

I am a Lasallian Volunteer and I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I may not have known it throughout the challenges that I have faced during my time thus far as an LV, but in hind-sight I know for sure that I made the right decision to partake in this wonderful, challenging, and transformational program. A huge shout out to all the LVs, Brothers, staff, friends, and family who have followed me and supported me throughout this crazy journey; I never would have expected to serve as an LV for two years, or sign up for the most challenging race of my life. A special thank you to Megan, Julia, and Kayla for allowing me to do so. See you all at Ragnar 2014!

By |September 2nd, 2013|Categories: blog, news + events|3 Comments