In this month’s Lasallian Volunteers “Ministry of the Month,” the District of Eastern North America is featured. The ministry is San Miguel School in Washington, D.C. The Lasallian Volunteers are Benjamin Peters and Timothy Foley, 18-19. Tim is a graduate of Northeastern University, and Ben is a graduate of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota (SMUMN).

WHAT IS THE SAN MIGUEL SCHOOL?

San Miguel School is a Lasallian middle school, dedicated to transforming lives for academically underserved and economically disadvantaged boys in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Based on the virtues of Saint John Baptist de La Salle, the Miguel model of education provides the academic, spiritual and social training necessary for positive character development, personal resiliency and responsible citizenship. Students enter San Miguel as at-risk boys and graduate as Miguel Men, equipped for future success in high school, college and beyond.

WHAT IS THE SERVICE BEN AND TIM PROVIDE?

Tim and Ben both teach a seventh grade religion class known as “Miguel Class,” which combines religious studies with socioemotional learning. Tim supervises and tracks all students’ reading scores, which are earned each time a student finishes reading a book and taking a quiz on it. Each student has a total point goal that he must meet each quarter. In addition, Tim supervises study halls, tutors students, is the sixth grade PE teacher, and coached the school’s flag football team. In addition to teaching his seventh grade Miguel Class, Ben supervises students during independent reading, substitutes classes for his fellow teachers, is the school’s librarian, and supervises recess.

HOW DID BEN AND TIM BECOME LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS?

Ben learned about Lasallian Volunteers as an undergraduate at SMUMN. He was interested in a year of service but what drew him to the program was the experience of his classmates. He says, “Initially, I looked at the Lasallian Volunteers because I wanted to get first hand teaching experience before I decided to pursue a master’s degree. However, a big factor in deciding to pursue a position with the LVs was reading about the experiences that former volunteers had with the people they served and worked with.” While Tim did not attend a Lasallian college or university, he felt connected to Lasallian Volunteers and the Lasallian charism through his father’s work. He says, “Lasallian Volunteers appealed to me for a number of reasons. I first heard about it through my dad, who has worked at Bishop Loughlin since before I was born. As I learned more about the program, I came to find that it was strikingly compatible with my different passions. It was an opportunity to further pursue my faith, something that became increasingly important to me throughout college. It was a chance to contribute to a meaningful cause and to work with individuals who care about social justice. Finally, it would allow me to work in a school, through an organization that places the focus on building strong relationships with students.”

HOW DO BEN AND TIM TOUCH THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF THE STUDENTS AT SAN MIGUEL?

Both volunteers value the personal interactions they have with their students. They have invested in the school and realize that a successful volunteer year comes from finding God in the kids themselves. Tim says, “I think the most important thing my students need is for me to listen to them. I want to make them feel valued and validated. Especially as middle-schoolers, making sure they feel respected and heard is crucial. In the midst of stress, I fall short on this a lot, and it’s something I’m continuing to work on. I think little things you say and do have a lasting impact on young people and being just a little more patient, or softening myself just a little extra to be more of a listener can really make a difference.” Ben agrees when he says, “They need someone to help lead them and encourage them by setting boundaries and expectations so they can know what to aim for. I’m here to do everything from helping them find a good book to leading them to the mysteries within a reading to providing a quiet space for them to explore and work.”

HOW HAS LIVING WITH THE BROTHERS OF THE CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS/LASALLIANS IMPACTED BEN AND TIM?

Ben and Tim have both enjoyed community life with each other, Brothers and Partners, especially in the personal growth they have found that they did not fully expect. Tim says, “My involvement in community has caused me to learn a lot about myself. It has helped me to identify areas where I can grow. I feel like my flaws and shortcomings and insecurities and idiosyncrasies have really been on display for me. On the other hand, I’ve also seen different strengths and virtues rise to the top, some of which I didn’t even know I had. It has all caused me to ask myself a lot of questions; to bring a lot of questions into prayer, and I know that there is more in store for me as I continue my time here. It has already been fruitful in so many ways. I also feel like I’ve grown as a teacher through the valuable advice and support that I’ve received in community.” Ben echoes Tim’s thoughts when he says, “This past year has helped me mature as I have 92 students who look up to me and depend on me to set a good example of how to work both diligently and faithfully; it has also taught me more about myself and what I believe is the purpose of my life: to continue serving others.”

WHAT DO BEN AND TIM WANT TO SAY TO COLLEGE SENIORS CONSIDERING A YEAR OF SERVICE WITH THE LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS?

Ben and Tim with Margaret Naughton, DENA partner who lives in community and who serves on the LV staff.

The message is simple. Come and see! Ben says of a year of service, “If you are unsure about what you want to do with your life but you think it might be something in education or serving others: Do it!If you want experience teaching in an environment (with LV mentors and co-teachers) that will help you grow to be the best possible teacher you could be—even if you have no idea what that means yet: Do it.If you are afraid that you might totally mess up in front of some kids or adults that you serve: don’t worry about it! You probably will, but if you want help picking yourself up and figuring out how to do better: Be an LV!” Tim says of his year of service so far, “I would absolutely encourage it. Regardless of what degree you are coming out with, regardless of what your plans are. It deserves really strong consideration. It’s a great opportunity to serve, and to walk with different people who can shape your perspective in so many crucial ways, who you can learn a lot from. It will challenge you and test you, but I think all of that will really just prepare you better for whatever it is you plan to do after. For me it has been worth it—hands down.”