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About Katie Bauser

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So far Katie Bauser has created 12 blog entries.

Celebrating Small Successes

In social work it can be difficult, reminding yourself of your position when you become so familiar to the families you serve. As a volunteer for Tides Family Services, you often have to make a tough call that will compromise your standing with a family for the safety of your client. On the other side of that coin, there are many other moments when I’ve wondered if I had made a difference at all—if I had even provided help in the way of a stepping stone toward a client’s treatment goals. In both instances, I was becoming too wrapped up in the troubling parts of my service.

I was taught a very important lesson that would take me out of that mindset by a client who I’ll call Sophia. For the first couple of weeks, we were open to her, she was tough to engage with: she hated eye contact, did not like small talk, and, even with open-ended questions, gave one-word answers. But with persistence and patience, Sophia became easy going and responded well to the team during her times of crisis.

It was bittersweet that as she was coming out of her shell, I was shifting to a new role at Tides Learning Center. I was closing out cases with my families and offered a goodbye recreational activity to those open to it. Sophia was quick to take up the offer. During our time in the community, we discussed safety planning around threatening situations and continuing to encourage positive self-image. Sophia then stated there was a memento, a paper fortune that was one of a few personal things that she kept after moving from house to house. She had forgotten about it in the past few years but was going to look at it more often to remind her what she liked about herself. When I asked her what it said, Sophia got frustrated in trying to get the exact wording. When it became too distressing, we moved on to a different topic.

Time has passed since that last conversation we’d had. I am trying to build new bonds with clients and students I am always quick to identify as “my kids.” But I was settling into my troubled mindset again. Is what I’m doing going to have any effect? What if the students don’t respond well to me? What if there are students who do, but it becomes strained after a tough decision that I will inevitably have to make?

It was a little over a month later when a coworker sent me a message. Sophia had texted the on-call phone trying to reach me. “If Leisha is still around, tell her the fortune cookie I’ve had hanging for years says, ‘Your emotional nature is strong and sensitive.’ I keep forgetting but I said I’d tell her.”

I couldn’t believe that she remembered the conversation. Much less that Sophia still believed it was important that I know what that little fortune said; words that reminded this anxious girl, who had gone through so much at such a young age, what she loved about herself.

When the going gets tough, we reflect on our relationships with those we serve. That means celebrating the small successes that could easily be overlooked if one doesn’t take a step back from the daily grind. Receiving that message in the midst of my own doubts reminded me to focus on them: An open question in class, a student doing work for the first time in months, a previously quiet client initiating interest in a recreational activity.

There will always be some setback here and there. But they become fewer, with a little more time in between each one, and in the meantime, it’s those moments the client and I focus on to remind them that progress is being made. That relationship of understanding is something that is being felt, if not at the very least seen. I am eternally grateful to be able to usher my kids at least a little of the way on their individual journeys. And enjoy those small successes with them.

Leisha Adrianzen is a second-year volunteer serving at Tides Family Services/Tides Learning Center in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

By |March 22nd, 2019|Categories: blog|0 Comments

From Spain to the US to be Part of the Solution

A year ago I made a decision that would change my life completely. A decision that I do not regret, but that was risky.

I studied all my life at La Salle of Paterna in Valencia, Spain. It is there that I remember spending the happiest years of my life. My parents are teachers and I grew up volunteering, attending summer camps, and participating in catechesis. Joining Lasallian Volunteers was an opportunity for me to go one step further. It meant leaving my life in Spain to continue my Lasallian vocation on the other side of the ocean, in a country with a different language and culture. I knew this would be a challenge for me.

This decision, as crazy as it is brave, is changing my life and my perception completely. Now I live in Bronx, New York, in the Lasallian Community at Bedford Park, along with four Brothers and three Lasallian Volunteers. My great American family. Life here is better than I imagined; life in community with Brothers and volunteers is endearing. The routines with our daily prayers and our community dinners, as well as weekend plans outside the home. Especially in my case, I believe that living in a community is special, since I am far from my home and I miss my family. That is why living in community makes me feel more nurtured and cared for.

My work here is very different from what I had done in previous volunteer programs. I’m working at POTS, Part of the Solution, a multiservice agency in the Bronx. This center is a source of help for hundreds of neighborhood residents who attend the different services daily: community dining room, food pantry, mail, haircuts, legal services, immigration services, employment department, etc. I provide intake support for clients seeking access to POTS programs. I also assist clients in obtaining and maintaining cash and non-cash benefits such as Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Medicaid, Lifeline (phones), Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE). In addition, I help clients navigate access to various forms of temporary and permanent housing including supportive housing applications, nursing home applications and low-income housing applications.We work with families as they move from crisis to stability and, ultimately, self-sufficiency.

Sometimes I feel a lot of responsibility because I am the first contact that the clients have with the organization. I conduct intake interviews where I collect demographic information and speak with them about their life. For that reason, I try to show that we have to treat everyone with empathy, respect, listening and affection because we all have stories to tell and not always all voices are heard. During this process, it is very rewarding to see how we help families. I have never before had a job that made me feel so proud and spiritually fulfilled.

All this developed with the best coworkers, who help me and teach me every day and make me feel proud to contribute to POTS mission.  I have only been here four months and I’m excited to see what the rest of the year holds for me. I will continue living with my wonderful Lasallian community and continue helping the neighbors and families of the Bronx along with my POTS team. Let’s keep going!

Daniel Martinez attended La Salle of Paterna in Valencia, Spain.

By |March 6th, 2019|Categories: blog, news + events|0 Comments

Defying Stereotypes and Celebrating Community

Coming from a suburban lifestyle my first walk to work through San Francisco’s Tenderloin District (TL) stirred up many emotions, few positive. I still remember stepping over needles and feces and seeing the hopeless look on the faces of people gripped by systematic poverty and thinking to myself, “How is this possible?” I, for the first time in recent memory, was speechless. I couldn’t fathom how people were left to live like this. I couldn’t understand how in one of America’s premier and richest cities people were left living in this deep squalor. A second thought soon entered my mind, at the same time, “How am I going to make it to here?” I was half tempted to just tell the LV program they made a mistake placing me here and a different site would be a better fit. I knew I had to give it a shot and as that first week progressed, I couldn’t believe how judgmental and misguided my initial impression was.

I soon realized that I was going to make it in the TL because seeing others go to work every day to make this community a better place was too powerful to not want to emulate. Whether that was the Saint Anthony’s workers ensuring that Golden Gate Avenue was safe, the security guard next door always making sure the streets are clear for our students, the men and women at the various non-profits providing those in need essential services or the local shop owners who offer you a friendly hello on the street and at lunchtime serve the best meal you ever had is what makes the TL special. The real TL is a group of caring people united in the same cause, vested in each other’s success ensuring that the best possible care is given to the less fortunate. Then there is a piece of this community where I can contribute, De Marillac Academy.

Founded in 2001 as a Lasallian Vincentian School, De Marillac Academy (DMA) is attempting to breakdown the systematic poverty in the TL through education. The school views itself as a community partner and supports the needs of our students and families in many different ways. As an instructor, I can personally say that my students amaze me. They amaze me with their ability to work hard and overcome the many challenges that they face in order to achieve their ultimate goals. They amaze me with the pride and dedication they put into their works. They amaze me with the little acts of kindness they show to their teachers and classmates. I remember during one of my first weeks at DMA, one of my students was struggling to grasp a concept, I was struggling and fed up with why they weren’t understanding what I was saying when a different student stepped in to offer us both help. It was through her intervention that the student got the assignment and I learned that I was explaining things in terms that were too abstract for a fifth grader. I will admit to this day that sometimes I do resort back to a college level vocabulary but my students know that they simply need to say, “Mr. Javorsky stop using big words,” and I adapt my lessons.

Another example that encapsulates the power of the partnerships within the community at DMA happened in early December. I was standing outside dismissing my students when a parent came up to me and said something along the lines of “my daughter is really struggling in math and is too shy to ask for help.” I soon began to make sure I paid some extra attention to this student and realized that she really did need some help. I made sure that the other instructors were aware and as a team, we supported this student and she has made tremendous growth in math ever since. A few weeks ago, that same mother came up and thanked me for all that I have done for her daughter. It is a community like De Marillac that allows for this type of communication to happen but more importantly one where we have the ability and resources to give students the needed support.

DMA also strives to give back to the broader Tenderloin community and it was during one of these moments that I witnessed something that stopped me in my tracks. Some of my students were having a small bake sale to raise money for charity. A man clearly down on his luck reached into his pocket and gave them what I assume is pretty much everything that he had, about 35 cents. He didn’t want a treat but you could see that his day was made a little bit better by his interaction with the kids. This event blew me away and I realized no matter how small it may be we all have something to give. DMA is not only a powerful community within itself where students and families come together to offer kids a brighter future but also a place that makes the broader TL better.

Now in terms of my place in both the DMA and the TL community I refuse to embrace a savior-complex and say these communities need me but I do know I need these communities. I have become a better person while being an LV. I have gained a deep perspective into a world much different from the one where I grew up. I hope that this understanding will help me in my future endeavors by allowing me to help those less fortunate. I have also learned many critical life lessons and gained practical skills both living with the Brothers and working at DMA that I know I wouldn’t have learned without doing a year of service.

The TL is a community that clearly has immense poverty but it is also one that defies its stereotypes. DMA and TL are both communities I am proud to be a part of. The people of the Tenderloin have created a vibrant community that I think it is worth celebrating. I am eternally grateful that DMA and the TL have allowed me to be part of their communities during my year of service. If I would have gone with my initial impressions and asked to be placed elsewhere, I can’t imagine how different my life would be.

Zach Javorsky is a first-year volunteer serving at De Marillac Academy in San Francisco, California. He is a 2014 graduate of Pittsburgh Central Catholic. 

By |February 20th, 2019|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Defying Stereotypes and Celebrating Community

A Spirit of Love

During the Valentine’s Day season, I thought it would be fitting to write about love. Not a romantic love but an agapeic love. Working at The San Miguel School of Providence, I have fallen in love with a job, service opportunity and a community. Every day I wake up and drive to school and am welcomed by a handshake from a San Miguel student. Serving 64 middle school boys every day is no easy task. Some days I get people even asking me, “how can you stand it?” How do I stand it…? Well it’s easy, I love my students. Saint Miguel Febres Cordero, our namesake, said, “these children have won my heart; they are what I regard most in the world.” I find that I am feeling the same way that Saint Miguel did.

These children have stolen my heart from the moment I entered the school and tried to memorize their names. I talk highly about the students I serve and their ability to be Miguel Men. Without the love that I have for these students, I do not think I would be the best teacher I could be for them. I could never be a basketball coach, with the type of passion I now have, without the love I have for my students. I get excited when they win or make a three pointer. I get all excited when the player who doesn’t seem to be listening to me finally listens to me. “Yes coach.” Those are the words that drive my love for the sport even more than I had when I was a kid.

It takes a special type of love to be able to want to serve, teach and coach. They say “love is patient and love is kind” and I truly believe that. The amount of patience and kindness I need to show is incredible. Some days I get upset at the students for not putting in effort or being unkind to another classmate, and I might have to give them detention but some days it’s the opposite. Some days my students are excelling at a new math concept or reading a book above their reading level. They might start doing well at chess or taking leadership responsibilities. Through the good and bad, as their teacher, I have to be there for them. A spirit of love will help the people I serve thrive while I am with them.

Jubilee Aguilar is a first-year volunteer serving at The San Miguel School of Providence in Rhode Island. She is a 2018 graduate of La Salle University.

By |February 13th, 2019|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on A Spirit of Love

Paper vs. Passion: Are You Qualified or Called?

This year has been a whirlwind. At times, I didn’t even know if I would make it past Christmas. Moving to a new city and jumping into teaching all at once. I didn’t think I was qualified for this. I was never taught to teach, much less taught things about classroom management, discipline, lesson planning, or the other thousand things that teachers do. I didn’t know what I was doing.

Luckily, or so I thought, one of the courses I am teaching is physical education. I was pretty athletic growing up, so I could do that. The lesson planning of that was easy. However, trying to get 24 students to listen to the skills being taught, the instructions, get into groups, and participate all in a gym with bad acoustics, was frustrating and discouraging. I tried the whole participation point system, and that worked for a little while, but didn’t last. Reality check, I am not going to get all 24 students happily and willingly participating. Forcing participation wasn’t helping anyone. It just wasn’t going to happen, and it was time for me to accept that and adjust. So, I learned how to adjust my class and give them options—options for their participation comfort level and options for the activities.

The other class I teach is digital literacy. I’m definitely not qualified for that. I still have to look up the shortcut to copy and paste things. How am I supposed to teach computers to middle schoolers? They’re 12 years old, and most of them already know more about technology than I do. What am I supposed to teach them? How am I supposed to manage these 24 seventh grade students at 3:00 p.m. on a Friday and teach a subject I’m not confident in? This is the 21stcentury, of course a lot of kids are technologically savvy, it’s natural for them. However, even though they may know how to use a computer, their safety on the internet was not the best, so there was indeed something I could teach them. Another thing I realized was that they are the age that when they see something online, they believe it. So, reliable sources was another thing I could work on with them. I did indeed have things I could teach them. I also learned that that class, especially at that time of day and week, did not just want to sit there and learn things about computers. I had to start doing a lot of group work and activities, which in turn made the class go by easier and quicker. Class management and discipline are two of the biggest skills I’m slowly picking up on, not perfect, but definitely something I am continually learning about and growing in.

These are the thoughts that went through my head daily: I can’t do this, why am I here, what am I doing, I shouldn’t be here, can I leave? Then one Brother shared this quote, “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.” Wow, God’s a trickster. Of course He didn’t place me here to get everything right—good thing too because that wasn’t happening. Knowing how to do everything and doing great at everything wouldn’t have helped me learn, grow, or rely on Him. Even more so, being a know-it-all teacher doesn’t help me connect with the students. I think when students see me struggle or admit that I don’t know something, they respect me more for it. It is okay to not know something. It is okay to not have everything planned. Even if you do, things are not going to go that way.

In the long run, students are not going to remember exactly what you taught (or didn’t teach) them, they’re also not going to remember the times you didn’t know something, or the time that the math major got a sixth grade problem wrong (yes, it’s happened). They are going to remember the times you connected with them, laughed with them, and encouraged them. The times you asked about them and were interested in them as people, the times you went to their sports games and cheered them on, and maybe the times you gave them candy as a bribe to behave.

I am qualified to develop relationships with students, and to care, because there are no qualifications for that. It’s part of being a Christian. Once I realized that, I really started to try focusing on the good things that were happening, and not so much all the ways I didn’t think I was good enough. Developing relationships with students is the most important thing I am doing here. The students don’t actually have to become computer masters or the most athletic kids in the country—especially in middle school. They need adults to care about them, as my coworker said, “mentorship and/or high-quality time with adults is so important for children’s development.”

At times I didn’t think I was doing well in this area and the questions about qualifications started popping in my head. But then I started to notice the little things: how many students would say hello, smile, wave in the hallway, or come talk to me during breaks and tell me about their weekends. The student who would have a frown on their face until I said hello and shook their hand. The student who would run up to me the first time they saw me during the day to tell me about the book they found or finished, or the math scores they got. The ones who instead of playing at the park, would sit next to me and talk about their families and life. The students who would always make eye contact with me as they saw me trying to teach digital literacy. Those are all the proofs that I am succeeding where I am, that God is using me, that I am qualified to be right where I am, even when I don’t see it all the time.

I don’t have to understand why here or how exactly God thinks I’m qualified to be here. He placed me here as a part of His greater plan, and He thinks I am qualified for this job right here right now. He is continually making me into the person He calls me to be to be qualified for the next step. He is using the gifts and talents He gave me where I am right now.

Besides, other people thought I was qualified enough to become a part of the LV program, and that was worth something right? I was called to this program. I’ve known since I was in high school that I was meant to do post-grad volunteer work. I knew I was called for that and doubting that calling was doubting God. God knew I was qualified for the program, and He is still qualifying me every day to face whatever may be thrown my way. I may not feel it, but the process isn’t done yet. God called me, so I am qualified in His eyes.

Rachel Aubart is a first-year volunteer serving at De Marillac Academy in San Francisco, California. She is a 2018 graduate of Lewis University and a 2014 graduate of DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis.

By |February 6th, 2019|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Paper vs. Passion: Are You Qualified or Called?