When I was just a baby, my mother started working at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Growing up with a religion teacher and Campus Minister as a mother in a Lasallian high school, I was born to be a Lasallian…literally. With how close my mother and I are, my fate was chosen for me. Due to her involvement with Campus Ministry/Lasallian Ministry, I became lucky enough to be involved in the Midwest Lasallian Youth trips before I even attended high school. I was also a part of other service opportunities offered by the Campus Ministry office. Some of them included buying Christmas gifts for the families that DLS adopted during the holiday season and also being involved, at 8 years-old, with the first prom held at DeLaSalle for people living with disabilities. Point being, I was highly involved in serving others and I didn’t even realize that I was doing it because it was always fun, rewarding and what I grew up doing. It became natural and was something that is a part of who I am and what I wanted to continue to do as I got older. So, it was a no brainer that I was going to be a Lasallian Volunteer.
Due to my history, one would assume that I probably was going to have an easy-going year and that being a Lasallian Volunteer (LV) was going to come easy for me. Well, some parts did and others didn’t. As I begin to finish up my first year as an LV at De La Salle North Catholic High School (DLSNC) in Portland, Oregon I find myself realizing that it is getting harder and harder to imagine my life away from this school and my students. However, if someone were to ask me if I thought I would feel this disappointed about leaving a few months ago, I wouldn’t have had this reaction. As an introvert who didn’t even realize she was an introvert until this year, it became apparent that I needed to do something that would cause me to step out of my comfort zone in order for me to develop better relationships with students. I was experiencing a lack of interaction with students through my position. My main job at DLSNC is being an associate of our Corporate Internship Program where each and every one of our students goes to work once a week. This experience is very enriching for our students as they are receiving a college prep education and also participating in the corporate world. For me, it felt good to be a part of finding them jobs that would benefit them most based on their skills. This position, though helpful professionally for me, didn’t allow me to really establish raw and authentic relationships with the students which was something that I knew I wanted when I started this program. I was beginning to feel like I wasn’t doing what I was sent to Portland to do and started feeling doubtful. I needed to change so I took the initiative to create something that was missing and would hopefully help build something vital for the community and to create these relationships that weren’t there in the beginning.
In September when I first walked into the school, there wasn’t any art work on the walls, performing arts was non-existent and there wasn’t anything that showed school spirit or student talent. I talked to the principal at my school a month or two into my service year and made a proposal to create an art club. Mind you, I never had an art class in high school or college or art experience in general except for the fact that I am highly appreciative of the arts. I did however, have experience in developing programs and being a part of clubs. So I found it fitting to combine my experience of being a part of clubs and the hidden talents of these students together so that we could create something beautiful, and we did. Teachers and students were touched by what they were seeing. The students’ art began to fill the halls and are currently working their magic on the walls of the Lasallian Youth Ministry office with a mural they designed themselves.
The moment when my art club participants started showing me that they were capable of coming up with ideas for our meetings and inviting guests in to teach them different skills, I began to really feel one with the community and my service. This is also where I found the true beauty of being a volunteer. You are expected to bring something to the table. Your talents and gifts are needed and encouraged to be exposed. When you are given the freedom to do that, you feel grateful for not only having the chance to build on your skills but also seeing your skills used for the betterment of young people you are serving. I created the foundation for students to express themselves and they did the rest. The next semester came with a whole new arts curriculum with a photography class, choir class, and an art class. I can’t help but to think that the art club initiated that.
Stepping up to create the art club not only helped me develop relationships with students and give them a space to be themselves but it also showed me that I was in the right place at the right time. Despite my doubts at the beginning, being a part of this program was the right decision. St. John Baptist de La Salle once said, “May God continue what He has begun in you”. As I continue to let my Lasallian identity grow and flourish in me, I hope that as I leave Portland, my art club will be able to continue to let their talents touch the De La Salle North Catholic community.
Maddie Hodapp is a 1st year LV serving at De La Salle North Catholic in Portland, Oregon. She is a graduate of University of Saint Thomas and DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis.