Monthly Archives: November 2018

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Remember Why You Serve

Often times I get caught up in the stress of my service site and my life. I find myself complaining too much instead of being grateful for what I have and what I have accomplished. Yes, I am going to be cliché and write about being grateful and thinking about others immediately after Thanksgiving. I think it is important to take a step back and realize how good I actually have it.

Like many of the other Lasallian Volunteers in my cohort, my role at my service site  can be very demanding. We all have those difficult students, families, clients and elderly people we serve. With that being said, it is easy to get caught up in the thought that they should make it easier on us because we’re giving up a year or more away from our families to serve them. I often find myself complaining to Julia, my lovely community member and fellow LV, about these difficult students and families I encounter. Asking her things like, “Why? Why won’t this student follow directions or listen to me? Why won’t this parent respond to my emails or letter home? Why does this student not like me, not respect me?” I am forgetting that these students and families have lives outside of school just like me. They have things going on that I do not know about and I cannot begin to understand.

I need to remind myself to take a step back and remember the reasons why I am here. I did not do this because I thought it would be fun or it would be easy. I decided to do these years of service because these people deserve it. The people we serve deserve to be treated better and to have better lives. Doing service is not about you, it’s about who you are serving. If I didn’t decide to step up and give back, who would? It starts with me and that’s why I am here in Concord, California. The fact that I even have the privilege to do a service year—two actually—is reason enough to do so.

Unlike some of my students and families, I come from a loving, supportive home where I am safe and never hungry. I live with two amazing Christian Brothers and another LV who will go above and beyond for me. These are things I need to keep in mind when working with a difficult student or family. They deserve all of my love and support because they may not be getting it elsewhere.

Although at times service can be difficult, I am experiencing so much—lifelong relationships and love I could not get anywhere else. As people, we naturally expect things to be easy and to be perfect, but I think the beauty of doing service is that it’s hard. The challenges I face now are going to make me a better teacher and even a better person. With over a year under my belt already, I have already become so much better than I was before.

This past week, I visited my high school and talked about what I do as an LV and my experiences thus far. One of the girls asked me, “What gave you the courage to do a second year?” Initially, I said, “the love and support of my family,” but I have been thinking about it. Honestly, what I do is not nearly as courageous as the challenges that our students, families, clients and elderly face and overcome every day. It’s actually humbling to see what they have to deal with and how well they do so.

Ashley Weinberger is a second-year Lasallian Volunteer serving at De La Salle Academy in Concord, California. She is a 2017 graduate of La Salle University. 

 

 

 

By |November 28th, 2018|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Remember Why You Serve

Serving from Sea to Shining Sea

One of my favorite parts of studying and teaching literature is making connections between the text and current events and themes in our world today. One of my favorite poems that almost instantly comes to mind is “I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman. His words, which begin and end with “I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear…Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs,” show how each individual’s hard work joins together to create one great and diverse country. These words especially resonate with me this week as our country remembered the sacrifice of our servicemen and women on Veterans Day. Whether it is serving in the armed forces, at a local church, a food bank, or giving a year to serve in vulnerable and marginalized communities, our country’s generosity with service is what makes America great.

Regardless of one’s skill and passion, the simplest act of service to another, to me, is the sincerest form of gratitude for all of the gifts we have received. While we often hear about stories of violence and sadness in the news, how often do we act on the words of the television icon Mr. Fred Rogers when he comforted television viewers by telling them to “look for the helpers.” I was blessed to have received a Catholic education since first grade, and I felt called to become a teacher and a Lasallian Volunteer as a way to give back for all that my teachers and the Christian Brothers gave me throughout my childhood. I think it is safe to say that many of my fellow Lasallian Volunteers have similar thoughts, and whether they are serving in Chicago, Tucson, Philadelphia, or even Bethlehem, we are all here to serve the students entrusted to our care.

I am serving at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, a coeducational school with 750 diverse and extremely talented students. I am working in the Learning Center with students who need extra academic support and learning accommodations to help them achieve their short- and long-term goals. I meet with my students for individual support on a weekly basis depending on the level of need, and I often find myself out of the office to check up on students in their natural school environments and to support them in their classrooms. My belief is that my calling in this role is to not sit behind a desk all day, but rather take advantage of every opportunity to make a positive impact on a student, especially those who struggle most. The most rewarding part of my service here is seeing a student motivated and confident that they can succeed and master their material, and the glimmer in their eyes when they finally get a concept motivates me in my role.

I also serve in Lasallian Ministry where I help plan diverse programs to support our students’ academic and spiritual growth. For seven years, I have served in several parishes as a CCD teacher where I educated young children about their Catholic faith and finding Jesus in the seven sacraments. My work in Lasallian Ministry allows me to use my creativity and love of the Church to get students involved in the spiritual component of our Catholic and Lasallian school. We recently celebrated All Saints Day as a school community and incorporated elements of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) into our prayer space. As with many Catholic schools today, a portion of our student body is either not Catholic or not religious, but I used our school Mass to get all students involved in our liturgy in a different way. Our graphic design class created and our Spanish classes colored “papel picado” (traditional Mexican banners). In addition, our art classes created mini-ofrendas out of shoeboxes to remember their loved ones, our art club made flowers out of tissue paper, and the school community was invited to bring in pictures of family and friends who have died for our community ofrenda table.

Seeing our students and staff come together as one community while doing even small actions of kindness helps me remember the good that still exists in our world and why service is so important. While a convenient opportunity since I recently graduated from college and am not burdened with as many challenges as my peers, my year here at DeLaSalle High School is allowing me to give back and contribute to the song of America that Walt Whitman wrote about many years ago. Together, and by association, our “voices” and acts of service to others come together as one great country.

Joseph Samuel Rogers is a first-year LV serving at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is a 2014 graduate of Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh and 2018 graduate of La Salle University in Philadelphia, both proud Lasallian institutions.

 

By |November 14th, 2018|Categories: blog, calendar|Comments Off on Serving from Sea to Shining Sea

Storms Can’t Dampen Spirit of LVs Run

The 2018 LVs Run didn’t go exactly as planned, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of Lasallian Volunteers who were prepared to run.

LVs Run was scheduled to take place on Saturday, November 3, 2018, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, as part of the larger Race by the Bay. However, faced with severe weather and high winds, Race by the Bay was cancelled. The cancellation didn’t deter the 26 LVs gathered in Pawtucket who still wanted to run—so run they did! Starting at Saint Raphael’s Academy, a Lasallian high school, LVs ran or walked about three miles on late Saturday morning after the storm had passed.

The weekend celebration began on Friday evening with a pasta dinner hosted by Christian Brothers Center and Ocean Tides in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Brothers, LV Alumni, parents, family and friends joined LVs in the opportunity to carb-load and celebrate all they had accomplished in preparation for running the next morning.

“As a new Lasallian Volunteer, I viewed our fundraising goal as not only a dollar amount, but as an opportunity to share my experience at DeLaSalle High School and the program with our generous benefactors, family and friends,” shared Joseph Rogers, a first-year LV serving at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “My connections that I built with our greater Lasallian family were personalized because really it was an invitation for them to join me on my journey this year since it is their support that makes this possible.”

Maddi Larsen, a second-year LV serving at The San Miguel School of Providence, Rhode Island, oversaw the logistics of the weekend as it was her community that hosted the LVs. Maddi shared, “Hosting the Lasallian Volunteers for the run was honestly such a joy. While having 29 people in the palace (the affectionate nickname they call the community) can be stressful, being surrounded by all these people brought me so much peace. They are absolutely like a second family to me and help to make my experience as an LV and the work that I do absolutely worth it.”

LVs Run surpassed its goal of $60,000 on Friday, November 2. Donations are still being received.

See more pictures >

By |November 8th, 2018|Categories: news + events|Comments Off on Storms Can’t Dampen Spirit of LVs Run

The Way Kids Spell Love is T-I-M-E

My name is Regina Bettag, and I am a first year Lasallian Volunteer at De La Salle Blackfeet School in Browning, Montana. I am the science teacher at the school and to my delight I get to teach the whole school, fourth through eighth grade! I am also a co-homeroom teacher for the sixth grade and a coach for the cross country team.

Days are jam-packed out here. Although the school day starts at 8:15 a.m., students start arriving around 7:30 a.m. because the school provides a place for students to have breakfast, safely spend time, and of course shoot hoops! Being on morning duty is a wonderful way to get to know the students, find out what they did over the weekend, what is going on at home, and sometimes, to be challenged to a basketball game that I know I am destined to lose! After all the classes roll through, we have homework completion time followed by an enrichment period where students get to take electives that normally would not find a spot in the curriculum. Right now, we are studying camping, hiking and survival skills. After that wraps up at 4:30 p.m., the students are dismissed for the day.

As you may have noticed, the school days here are longer than most because we follow the San Miguel model, a Lasallian model of education designed particularly for students in at-risk neighborhoods. The long days help to ensure that students are safe during a time when they might otherwise be unsupervised. There are plenty of things that could be a cause for concern. The reservation faces many struggles including unemployment, poverty, addiction, and a search for identity, which unfortunately often lead to harmful respites like drugs or alcohol. The longer school days are intended to protect students from falling into the all too easy traps of numbing pain through these harmful alternatives.

After school ends, I go straight to cross country practice which goes until 5:45 p.m. The mountains provide a striking backdrop that makes running hills seem majestic—though some of the athletes might not be convinced. After practice I clean up the lab, head back to the mission for a community meal followed by group prayer and a night of grading and making sure everything is in order for the next day. Then before I know it, I wake up and do it over again! When I stop to think about it, nearly all of my day revolves around the students—planning their lessons, being with them before school, teaching, eating lunch with them, tutoring, teaching enrichment, coaching, even running across the street to the grocery store during my prep to buy last-minute lab supplies! Like I said, the days are jam-packed but that only seems appropriate.

My mom used to say that the way kids spell love is T-I-M-E. Of all of the things that I can give to my students, of all of the gifts that anyone has to offer, old, young, rich, poor, etcetera, isn’t time one of the most precious?  After all, there is only so much of it no matter how much we might wish for.  Giving of my time is a way that I know I am showing my students love. Indeed, there are moments where I struggle—I feel swamped amongst grading, I need longer weekends to plan out the lessons, and sometimes I just want 30 more minutes of sleep—but these struggles are put into perspective because there is something deeper that propels me to grade that last assignment, to send another email for the cross country team, to wait those extra 12 minutes at school until I know the student is picked up to go home, and that thing is love. There is a prayer by Father Pedro Arrupe that says, “What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love (with God), stay in love (with God), and it will decide everything.”

Upon reflecting on my day and reading that prayer, I can see that it is my students whom subliminally help me decide how time is spent. Falling in love with them has changed me. In that last line of the prayer I find that if I substitute “God” with “my students” it fits pretty well. And how appropriate that I am putting my students in that place because it is through these wonderful, crazy, maddening, lovely people that I find God every day. The way we open Lasallian prayer saying: “Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God” is so relatable, because when I pray that, all I need to do is look around the room and instantly I can see God. I find God in the eighth grader who goes out of his way to open the door for someone who has their hands full, I find God in the sweet sixth grader who waits for me each day so he can be my “running buddy” at practice, and I find God in the fifth grader who comforts her crying classmate at lunch.

In a place where I am surrounded and astounded by so much love, I feel compelled and have a deep desire to return some of that, and I can’t think of a better way to do so then to spend my time with others as a Lasallian Volunteer. As a volunteer I might be minimally compensated compared to other post-college friends who have jobs, but really, I don’t think I could be making a better investment as I am investing something far more precious than money. Through investing my time, I am more than paid back in dividends of love, which really is priceless.

Regina Bettag is a first-year LV serving at De La Salle Blackfeet School in Browning, Montana. She is a 2018 graduate of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. 

By |November 7th, 2018|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on The Way Kids Spell Love is T-I-M-E

November Ministry of the Month: LaSalle School Albany

In this month’s Lasallian Volunteers “Ministry of the Month,” the District of Eastern North America is featured. The ministry is LaSalle School in Albany, New York, and the Lasallian Volunteers are first-year LV Christopher (Chris) Lackey and returning volunteer Krystiana Schaffer. Krystiana is a 2017 graduate of La Salle University, and Chris is a 2018 graduate of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

 WHAT IS LASALLE SCHOOL?

Founded in 1854 by the De La Salle Christian Brothers to serve abandoned and orphaned boys, LaSalle School is a multi-faceted human services agency. A talented and dedicated staff of more than 200 work with a daily enrollment of 230 adolescent boys and their families in Residential Treatment, Day Education, the Specialized Treatment Program, the After-School Center, and related programming. In addition, outpatient appointments are now being accepted at The Counseling Center at LaSalle. Located in the Pine Hill’s neighborhood of Albany, LaSalle’s main campus co-exists with residences, businesses, public schools, colleges and universities. Over the last decade, the agency’s facilities have benefited from an extensive program of renovation and new construction, providing an excellent environment for learning, living and working. Today, the work of LaSalle extends well beyond the residential campus. Nearly two-thirds of the youth in care live in their own communities and homes. An emphasis on the development of enhanced education, aftercare and preventive services has proven to be a natural complement to the strong program of residential care LaSalle proudly traces to its origins 160 years ago.

WHAT SERVICE ARE CHRIS AND KRYSTIANA PROVIDING AT LA SALLE SCHOOL? Chris is a campus minister and recreation worker. In his role as campus minister, he brings students to different ministries around the Albany area. As a recreation staff member, he puts on activities for students when they are out of school such as football games, bike rides and camping trips. Krystiana is part of the admissions team at LaSalle School. She assists in the admissions process beginning with the referral made by an outside agency, down to the happenings the day the youth come into the school for care.

HOW WERE KRYSTIANA AND CHRIS INTRODUCED TO THE LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS? Both volunteers are graduates of Lasallian universities in very different areas of our Region. They share a common belief that they were being called into a deeper connection with the Lasallian family after college. Chris says, “I became an LV because I could not see myself anywhere else. One thing I knew for certain leaving college was that I knew I wanted to stay connected to the Lasallian community. I love the spirit and charism of Saint John Baptist de La Salle and wanted to keep growing and learning in that. I also felt I heard God’s call to the Lasallian Volunteers stronger than any other place. I looked at other ministries, but my prayers just did not seem to lead me any other place.” As a second year, Krystiana echoes this when she says, “I think I decided to serve as an LV because I strongly believe in the Lasallian mission. No matter the ministry, no matter where I am in the world, I can feel the core values in everything we do. I want to be someone who helps to share those values with the greater Lasallian world.”

HOW DO CHRIS AND KRYSTIANA TOUCH THE MINDS AND HEARTS OF THOSE ENTRUSTED TO THEIR CARE?

The young men at LaSalle School come to them having experienced trauma. Chris and Krystiana, along with the other staff, are called to reach out to them with care and consideration no matter what. Chris says, “These young men have suffered in their short life from very traumatic experiences and troubled lives. So, what we are taught in how to help these young people is to do your best to create a relationship with them and show them you care so you will have the privilege to be with them when they are struggling the most. At the heart of this I find Saint John Baptist de La Salle’s words as well as the core values of Lasallians. I try to remember if you approach an emotionally traumatized young man with love remembering that he is God’s child, you can transcend all that trauma!” Krystiana says, “I believe each person is of value to our society and deserves to be treated in such that they feel dignified, seen and listened to. I have a deep appreciation for the way we as Lasallians see each other holistically. What I have learned at LaSalle School is that positive relationships are at the core of transformation. I believe that starts with being seen, and you do that by showing respect. Most of our young men have faced severe adversity in their short time on earth. LaSalle School is in the business of using therapeutic relationships and supports to elicit personal growth.”

HOW HAS LIVING WITH THE DE LA SALLE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS IMPACTED KRYSTIANA AND CHRIS?

As Krystiana and Chris both went to Lasallian universities, they had experience with being taught by De La Salle Christian Brothers. As a second year, Krystiana says of being in community with Brothers, “Being witness to the Brother’s dedication to the mission is truly inspiring. It is not always easy to be of service to others, but these men have shown me how to navigate the co-existing worlds of service and community while starting each day ready to give to others your best self. It is not every day you get to sit at a table filled with hundreds of years of experience. The wisdom they have imparted on me is a gift I will forever be grateful for.” Chris reflects on his time so far in community when he says, “Living in community with the Brothers has impacted me by truly trying to live in the presence of God. Trusting in His Providence every day and trying to recognize Him in all peoples and things is truly life giving.”

WHAT DO 2018-2019 LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS WANT TO SAY TO COLLEGE SENIORS ABOUT LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS?

Both volunteers at LaSalle School have encouraging things to say about serving with Lasallian Volunteers. Krystiana says, “The fact that you are even considering a year of service means that you are mission driven and care a great deal for your fellow man. A service year will test you, push you, and stretch you in the best ways possible, and you will come out stronger and a better person. In your dedication to social justice and the service of persons in need, I bet you will find the person you become through that experience is someone you are proud of.” Chris offered this, “You will get something out of it if you put your whole self into whatever it is you are doing. So, do not be afraid to take a leap!”

By |November 6th, 2018|Categories: lv of the month, news + events|Comments Off on November Ministry of the Month: LaSalle School Albany