In this month’s “Ministry of the Month,” the Midwest District is featured. The ministry is DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the Lasallian Volunteers are Jumari Callaway, 17-19 and Joseph Rogers, 18-19. Jumari is a graduate of Christian Brothers University (CBU) in Memphis, Tennessee. Joseph is a graduate of Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and La Salle University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 WHAT IS DELASALLE HIGH SCHOOL?

DeLaSalle High School opened in 1900 as the first Catholic high school in Minneapolis. Administered by the Christian Brothers since its inception, “De” has been co-educational since 1971-72. Over 15,000 men and women have graduated from DeLaSalle, which is still located on historic Nicollet Island, within walking distance of downtown Minneapolis. Today, DeLaSalle educates students from over 116 different Twin Cities elementary schools, from as far away as 30 miles in each direction. Still the only traditional college prep Catholic high school within Minneapolis, De is also the most diverse private high school in Minnesota in terms of ethnicity, socio-economic and family background.

HOW DID JOSEPH AND JUMARI BECOME LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS?

For Jumari, her life has been full of volunteering opportunities. As graduation from CBU approached, she began to think more seriously about education, but knew she was not ready for a full-time teaching experience. A trusted mentor steered her toward Lasallian Volunteers. She says, “I went to the Honors Program director with my dilemma, and she introduced me to Lasallian Volunteers. The program sounded like the introduction to the education field that I needed, with the support I was afraid I’d be lacking if I pursued a job and eased some of the stresses of living on my own with a job. It was even more appealing to me because I was serving others by getting this experience, and I would get to know a city I hadn’t known before.” Joseph’s experience is a bit different. The product of a double Lasallian education, Joseph encountered the Lasallian Volunteers through a service immersion program at Central. He says, “I first encountered the Lasallian Volunteers during my senior year at Central Catholic when I went on a service trip to the DeLaSalle Blackfeet School in Browning, Montana. I have always been committed to serving others and giving back for the gifts I have received, and this, plus the opportunity to work in a Lasallian high school made this program a perfect fit.”

WHAT IS THE SERVICE THAT JUMARI AND JOSEPH PROVIDE?

Both Joseph and Jumari serve as Learning Lab Coordinators at De. They are responsible for scheduling tests for students and helping with homework and other academic needs. They make sure students communicate with their teachers when they would like to take a test with learning accommodations, keep and proctor tests, and turn them in to staff afterwards. For the younger students, this sometimes means they hold them accountable for finishing tests in a timely manner. As Learning Lab staff, Jumari and Joseph have several students they meet with weekly, biweekly, or monthly to keep them on track with academic goals and discuss any academic issues they might have due to their learning disabilities. The goal is to help them grow in communicating their classroom needs to their teachers confidently, and learn to excel in the classroom regardless of whatever learning challenges they are facing. In addition to this, Joseph is also working in campus ministry, which allows him to plan prayer services, liturgies, and service opportunities for the students at De. Both volunteers participate in extracurricular activities at the school.

HOW DO JOSEPH AND JUMARI TOUCH MINDS AND HEARTS AT DE?

High school can be a challenge for all students. Having a difficult time finding friends, making teams, or discovering what extracurriculars make students feel passionate are challenging enough without having learning needs as well. Jumari recognizes this and says, “The students who focus more on fitting in have the added struggle of accepting the fact that what makes them different isn’t a bad thing before they even handle learning how to work with it. That’s something we try to do with them, but it’s ultimately something they have to accept themselves before we can help them. While they learn to embrace that, we do everything we can to help, even if it’s just building a relationship so that students feel they can approach us when they have struggles or questions. Personally, I feel this is the most important part of our job. We’re here to help the students, but we can’t do that if we haven’t made it clear that we are here for them and made them feel that we care for them and want to help however we can.” Joseph agrees when he says, “Students who struggle academically often feel demoralized when they cannot understand something at the same level or speed as a classmate, and rather than pushing them to their limits about turning in late work and studying harder, I find ways to connect with them and identify something they did really well to build confidence. I also hold my students accountable by checking their grades frequently and corresponding with students and their parents regularly.”

HOW HAS LIVING WITH THE DE LA SALLE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS IMPACTED JUMARI AND JOSEPH AS LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS?

Like many of the volunteers who have gone to Lasallian high schools, colleges and universities, where De La Salle Christian Brothers live in the communities, Joseph and Jumari have had previous experience with the Brothers. The volunteers at De have gained a new perspective on the sacramental relationship living in community can have in theirlives. Joseph says,  “I have known the Christian Brothers for eight years, since I was a freshman at Central Catholic, and their encouragement, guidance and support have shaped me into the person and educator that I am today.” Jumari agrees when she says, “Living with the Brothers has taught me resilience and given me an appreciation for life that I didn’t realize I was lacking.”

WHAT DO JUMARI AND JOSEPH HAVE TOSAY TO COLLEGE SENIORS ABOUT LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS?

Jumari encourages all college graduates to think seriously about giving a year of service. She says, “A year volunteering will not be easy, but it will be worth it. You will see growth in yourself, even in areas you didn’t think you could grow. You will inspire growth in others, even if you don’t immediately see it. You will serve those that need you, and the experience you gain from that will change you in positive ways. If you value service, growth in yourself and others, and are open to change, this will be an invaluable, unforgettable year. And if you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear all about it.” Joseph says, “At the end of my life, many years from now, I never want to look back and say ‘I wish I would have done that.’ If you feel called to work in a volunteer ministry, regardless of the program, live your life to the fullest and let life find a way!”