In this month’s “Ministry of the Month,” the District of San Francisco New Orleans is featured. The ministry is De Marillac Academy (DMA) in San Francisco, California. The Lasallian Volunteers are first-year LVs Zach Javorsky and Rachel Aubart. Zach is a graduate of Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Allegheny College, Pennsylvania and Rachel is a graduate of DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois.

WHAT IS DE MARILLAC ACADEMY?

Established in 2001, De Marillac Academy provides a tuition-free education that focuses on academic excellence in a values-based environment. Co-sponsored by the Daughters of Charity and De La Salle Christian Brothers, De Marillac offers a Catholic, private school education to low-income students from all faith and cultural backgrounds in the Tenderloin and other similar neighborhoods. De Marillac’s educational model is rooted in the NativityMiguel school movement, which began in New York City over 40 years ago in response to the poor state of urban public schools, the high cost of private education, and the lack of local schools in many inner-city neighborhoods. In 2001, De Marillac opened with a class of 19 sixth graders. Today, De Marillac Academy serves 119 fourth through eighth grade students, 231 alumni, and over 230 families in the school and its unique wrap around clinical and family support program.

HOW DID RACHEL AND ZACH BECOME LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS?

Both of our volunteers went to Lasallian high schools, so they were familiar with the mission prior to entering college. Zach says, “I decided to become a Lasallian Volunteer because I was looking for something that would allow me to give back while also gaining perspective and understanding of a different socioeconomic/cultural background than the one I was used to. I also liked the idea of giving back to the Lasallian network that had given me so much.” Rachel says, “I ultimately decided on Lasallian Volunteers because I love the mission of bringing education to the poor. I believe that if there is any way for people to get out of the cycle of poverty, it is through education. Students need strong supportive settings that can push them academically and allow them room to grow and figure themselves out. I also grew up around the Lasallian tradition; my whole family went to DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, and then I went to Lewis University in Illinois. I have grown a lot in these settings, and I wanted to continue being around and living out the Lasallian mission. I strongly believe that Lasallians care about the entire well-being of their students, and I am proud that I am a part of that.”

WHAT IS THE SERVICE THAT ZACH AND RACHEL PROVIDE?

Both volunteers serve in the Academic Resource Program, which means that they are responsible for giving extra help in reading and math to students who need them throughout the school day. They “push in” or “pull out” students for this extra help depending on the needs of the teacher, as well as working with students who need additional testing accommodations. Rachel teaches sixth, seventh, and eighth grade digital literacy, sixth and seventh grade PE, moderates lunch and recess, and coaches fifth and sixth grade basketball. Zach serves in the graduate support office, helping eighth graders with their essays for their high school applications, compiling information on scholarships  and financial aid applications and assisting in making sure the alumni database has the correct information.

HOW DO RACHEL AND ZACH TOUCH MINDS AND HEARTS AT DE MARILLAC?

Both volunteers emphasize the power of creating relationships with their students and families. Zach says, “For me, touching the hearts and teaching the minds of my students means forming personal relationships so our students know they can trust us and be comfortable sharing their thought bubbles with us. It means knowing our families and doing home visits to understand each individual student’s circumstances. These steps allow DMA to create a personalized education that will allow education to become a tool to breakdown the systematic poverty in the Tenderloin District.” Rachel adds, “My coworkers and I believe that mentorship and quality time with adults is so important for development, and because they spend most of their day at school, the staff and faculty are the ones who can give them this time and attention. They also need to feel safe.”

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

Zach and Rachel both experienced the Brothers during their high school or university years. They have grown closer to the men in their communities through shared prayer, meals and outings. Rachel shares about her time in community, “I have loved my time with the Brothers. I have always considered myself a helpful person, but watching the Brothers do even the tiniest things without a second thought has really humbled me. I used to always want acknowledgment and to feel appreciated when I would help out or do nice things. But after seeing how selfless they are, my heart has changed and I’m slowly realizing I don’t need that. I have gotten much better at seeing what needs to be done and jumping in to do so. I may not want to all the time, but I am getting better at doing it anyway and trying to have a cheerful heart. Another way living with the Brothers has changed me is just by how accepting they are. Every year the Brothers allow random 20-year-olds into their house and accept us as we are—female, male, our traditions, race, loud, obnoxious, shy, introvert, extrovert, super religious or super not, and everything in between.” Zach says, “I think my involvement with the Brothers has taught me to be more empathetic. I have gained experiences that allow me to relate to a very different demographic than where I grew up. I also have learned to anticipate the needs of those in my community while simultaneously being able to express my needs. Overall, being more empathetic has enhanced many of the relationships I have already formed and I am certain it will positively impact me moving forward.”

 WHAT DO RACHEL AND ZACH HAVE TO SAY TO COLLEGE SENIORS ABOUT LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS?

Zach expresses his passion for his year at De Marillac when he says, “I would say do it! We are told there is a certain path that we should follow. I was constantly told that you go to college and then you get a job that is relevant to your major. While this is certainly the path for some, it’s not the path for everyone. My major has nothing to do with teaching or even working in a school. My future career plans have nothing to do with education but I still feel I have gotten a great benefit out of my year of service. The lessons I have learned while being an LV will help me in my future endeavors, and if I had listened to all of those who said to stay on that clear-cut path, I don’t think I would have ever learned them. I would also like to add that if you are discerning between moving straight to grad school, like I was, or doing the LV program, do the LV program. Grad school will be there in one or two years but the perspective the LV program provides cannot be replicated in a classroom. Taking a mental break is also important because being in school for six, seven, even eight straight years can be draining. I took a break, and I know it’s exactly what I needed. When I start law school in the fall, I know I will be better off because I decided to do something different between undergraduate and the start of school.” Rachel says, “A volunteer year gives you experiences in a professional setting, but also in a different part of the country. If you’re unsure of your next steps, it gives you time and space that can help you. The LV staff and communities you live in and work with offer you support and give you opportunities to grow more so than you might get during your first year in a work setting. You make a lot of connections with others that will help you network in your future as well.”