Service Site: De La Salle Middle School at St. Matthews in St. Louis, MO.
College: Manhattan College, Riverdale, NY
What do you do?
I teach 5th, 6th, and 7th graders in Language Arts, Social Studies, and Religion, and I tutor students in Accelerated Math.
Why did you choose to become a Lasallian Volunteer?
I developed a passion for education during my undergraduate days at Manhattan College and sought to find a program where I could work with students, pushing them to reach their full potential. I specifically wanted to work with inner-city kids, and I wanted to be involved in a faith-based program. Lasallian Volunteers felt like the perfect fit for me. Now that I am finishing my second year of service, I feel like I was always meant to work towards the Lasallian mission. This program has challenged me in ways I never expected; it has pushed me to be my best self, and it has introduced me to some phenomenal kids and educators.
What is the most important “thing,” do you think, that your students/clients/guests need from you?
Although teaching is the main portion of my job, I think the most important “thing” I do is serve as mentor for the students. Working in a middle school, emotions are always very high and the students I work with are still trying to figure themselves out. We have a behavior system in our school called “BIST” where teachers have the opportunity to work one-on-one with children to help them get through some of their emotional hardships. We talk through each problem with our students and discuss what behavioral skills we need to improve on. During these meetings, students are able to open up to the adults in the school and the teachers are able to express themselves to the kids; this helps the educators foster growth-producing relationships with each student. When I’m in the position where I’m talking to students, I feel like I’m able to connect with them on a deeper level and become someone they can trust. From actively engaging in these challenging conversations with students, I have found that more students come to me just to talk, even when I’m not using “BIST.” I feel like I have become a comfort for many students—I don’t always have an answer to their problems/concerns but I’m always there to listen.
Give an example of a time when you knew you were making a difference.
Towards the end of the first semester this year, my students were completing a DBQ (Document-Based Question) about Islam. Many students were struggling with this writing assignment; the documents we were analyzing were challenging and the writing style we used was very structured. One student in particular continually put his head down during the class period and refused to write. I began working with him one-on-one more often; we would discuss his paper after school during our Homework Club and I would push him to work his hardest during class. For the last two weeks of the semester, I was pushing him to go further with his writing and his analysis. On the last day of the quarter, he had a formal, organized paper to turn in. He wore a look of accomplishment on his face as he handed in his paper, illustrating his pride in his work. That afternoon, I received an email from his mother thanking me for everything I’ve done for this student, expressing how he feels comfortable around me, and that I truly help him understand, even when things are challenging. The look on this student’s face as he turned in his paper and this wonderful email from his parent completely lifted me up. It’s moments like this where I feel like I am making a difference—making students feel more confident in their work and themselves.
Why would you recommend the LV program to a college senior considering volunteering?
I would recommend joining the Lasallian Volunteers because it completely opens up your world, challenges you, and introduces you to incredible people. Before joining the LV program, my world was incredibly small. I had grown up and went to college in the NJ/NY area and most of my friends were in the same boat as me. When I went to my first LV orientation, I was incredibly excited to meet people from all over the country. Within my service experience, I’ve traveled all over the Midwest (even Iowa…who would have thought a Jersey girl would thrive in all those cornfields?) to visit other people in my LV cohort and have developed great relationships with my fellow volunteers. I can honestly say I have met some of my best friends through this program. Additionally, this program takes you out of your comfort zone—I needed to persevere through difficult situations at my service site, and it has helped me grow into the person I always wanted to be. This program has given me the opportunity to take the knowledge I gained in college and put it into practice.