Monthly Archives: January 2019


January Ministry of the Month: John Paul II Academy Racine, Wisconsin

In this month’s “Ministry of the Month,” the Midwest District is featured. The ministry is John Paul II Academy in Racine, Wisconsin, and the Lasallian Volunteer is Madison Caropino, 17-19. Madison is a graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga.


John Paul II Academy (JPIIA) is a Catholic school providing a faith-based education that embraces the teachings of the Gospel in order to develop the whole child. The school exists in partnership with the parents, parishes and the community to meet the needs of each individual student.


Madison attended Saint Mary’s College of California and found herself called to a year of service. Lasallian Volunteers felt like a very natural fit. She says, “I was given many service opportunities, serving others is what I have always been happiest doing, and I knew that I wanted to continue service after I graduated. When I learned about Lasallian Volunteers, I knew that it would be the perfect fit for me. What attracted me most to the program was the mission of Saint John Baptist de La Salle, empowering our world’s youth through a quality education.”


Madison works to support the principal, helps the administrative assistants with administrative tasks, aid in classrooms, oversee all technology use at the school, and monitor recess and lunch. She says, “The kids I serve are what I look forward to when I wake up every day. The service aspect of the program has greatly impacted my life, and that is because of the kids I serve.”


Madison with Principal Schumacher

Many of the students at JPIIA come from lower income families that receive free or reduced lunch, they need a lot of help with homework, and their parents work long hours to afford the tuition to send them to the school. Madison feels blessed to get to be a part of their lives and see them every day. She says, “What my students need is unconditional love. At the end of the day, I do not know what every one of my students’ lives are like outside of school. But I do know that I get seven hours a day with them, and during those seven hours, I try to be my best self and show up with a smile on my face every single day.”


Like many of our Lasallian Volunteers who have attended our colleges and universities, Madison had known the De La Salle Christian Brothers during her time at Saint Mary’s. She shares this about living in community, “Living with Christian Brothers is a unique experience. It’s awesome to get to know them and about their lives, and why they are on the path they are on. It is incredibleto have Brothers with so much experience and knowledge at your dinner table to share with you what their experiences were in education. I have learned so much from the Brothers with whom I have lived throughout the past two years. Something that I have learned from living with Brothers is how to be a better listener. I think that the Brothers with whom I have lived with are great listeners, and it made me want to improve my listening, ask more questions, and just absorb the advice or stories that they are telling.”


Madison says, “My best advice to a college senior discerning a volunteer year would just be to be open minded and ready to learn. The experience will not always be easy, but it is worth it. The personal growth and amount of love that I have experienced the past two years is indescribable. My students truly have made me a better person.

By |January 11th, 2019|Categories: lv of the month, news + events|0 Comments

Answering the Unanswerable Questions

As a first-year teacher one thing that can stop me dead in my tracks is when a student asks me a question that I am unable to answer. The unanswerable questions themselves are not what stop me; rather, it is the inability to help one of my students that makes me pause. My faults and the limitations of knowledge are things that I am really familiar with going back to my early days as a philosophy major. In fact, one of my favorite quotes is one that I learned at the beginning of my studies while reading of the Trial of Socrates: “I am the smartest person in this room, if only because I am the only one who knows that they do not know everything.” Fortunately, as I look at my life now my philosophical studies unexpectedly prepared me for these perplexing questions from students and—with strenuous reinforcement and implementation this past semester—taught me how to truly listen, as a sixth-eighth grade teacher, to the questions of my students.

Everyday a single student might ask hundreds of questions, from the inane, “Mr. Peters, can I go to the bathroom,” over and over … and over again, to the deep, “Why do we believe in Hell?” Furthermore, a single study hall of 50 minutes might cover the breadth of helping create variable equations, symbolism in Fahrenheit 451, and balancing the sides of a chemical reaction. Previous schooling prepared me to solve and answer some of these questions on a basic level, but in most cases I have not practiced any real technical stuff in several years. But, what do I actually do when I get questions I forgot or never thought to learn?

Like a good student, we always begin by reading the instructions. Next, I do what I learned as a philosophy major, I ask simple questions until the student and I have a firm foundation—a foundation where both the student and I know the basic building blocks of the subject. Finally, we return the original question. The key to start solving a problem is knowing which questions to ask and, ultimately, listening to how someone answers. Students and I have answered many homework questions, but they have also taught me a great deal more.

My students have taught me that I need to ask a lot more questions in general. They have also taught me that I need to be more precise with my directions, like the times that I had them all get up and start walking somewhere without the “go” word. And, my students have taught me that I need to break things down to more simple questions at first, like when I asked for the definition of a word from my eighth grade English class, which I thought should be obvious and instead I got 16 eighth graders staring at me with deer-in-the-headlight eyes.

All 92 of my San Miguel students are a work in progress. I work hard to help them learn something new every day, and each day I hope that they ask me more questions on their own prerogative (if only so they can eventually teach themselves and I can just sit back and relax.) Overall, we have already grown a lot together, and my hope is that they grow—at least as much as they have helped me grow—because they have definitely shown me the way.

Ben Peters is a first-year LV serving at San Miguel School in Washington, DC. He is a 2018 graduate of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

By |January 9th, 2019|Categories: blog, news + events|0 Comments