This month’s Lasallian Volunteers “Ministry of the Month” is San Miguel High School in Tucson, Arizona, which is part of the District of San Francisco New Orleans. Jo-Ann Mullooly, a second-year Lasallian Volunteer (LV) and a graduate of Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York, and Jaclyn Ross, a first-year LV, and a graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, find joy in their students, faith and living in community with their Brothers.
WHAT IS SAN MIGUEL HIGH SCHOOL?
San Miguel High School opened in 2004 to create a learning community where students from families of limited financial means have the opportunity to develop to their full potential, regardless of religious affiliation. A Cristo Rey Network school sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, San Miguel celebrated its first graduating class in 2008. Most graduates will be the first in their family to complete high school and therefore the first to attend college. At San Miguel, students take a full college preparatory course load while simultaneously holding professional internships, working in corporations and earning nearly 40 percent of their school tuition. The Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP) at San Miguel provides the important link between academic and career goals. Students are involved in meaningful work experiences and learn job skills that are transferable to other settings. They develop relationships with professionals who serve as mentors. These experiences allow students to focus on their educational and career goals, which require both long-range planning and personal sacrifice.
WHAT SERVICES DO JO-ANN AND JACLYN PROVIDE AT SAN MIGUEL HIGH SCHOOL?
Jo-Ann serves as the director of Lasallian Youth, the director of the Help and Study Skills (HASS) & elective programs, and is the co-director of the choir at San Miguel. Jo-Ann describes her service by saying, “The student support roles are perfect for me because I wanted to be able to impact students directly. This allows me to communicate with students every single day, and that’s what makes this experience as great as it is.” Jaclyn serves as the El Otro Lado coordinator and the attendance project manager. Jaclyn says of her roles at San Miguel, “Both of my roles have helped me to get to know students quickly, and I like to think how genuinely happy I am to see them each morning offers a daily reminder that San Miguel is their home, and their family here truly loves and cares for them.”
HOW DID JACLYN AND JO-ANN BECOME LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS?
For Jo-Ann, her journey was more linear to become an LV. She attended Manhattan College, and experienced a service trip through the Lasallian Outreach Volunteer Experience (L.O.V.E) program that shaped her views on post graduate service. She says, “I had a moment of realization that everything I wanted for my life after graduation could be summed up by seeking faith, service and community. I wanted to work in various educational settings across the country and be exposed to all kinds of learners from all kinds of backgrounds in order to be the most effective educator I can be.” Jaclyn’s journey was a bit different and shows the power of invitation. She says, “One of my mentors recommended I look into the LV program. I didn’t know anyone who’d been an LV, so over the next few months I didn’t look very far into that option. That is, until I visited a friend of mine at Boston College. While I was there I met Gabbi Carroll, LV 15-16, who was wearing a Lasallian Volunteers jacket, and it was the first time I was able to talk to someone about their experience. We had such a great conversation that day that I decided I would apply. After talking to Steven Patzke, LV 14-15, he helped me recognize that out of everything I’d applied to, talking about Lasallian Volunteers was what gave me that burning desire I’ve come to recognize as a call.”
HOW DO JO-ANN AND JACLYN TOUCH MINDS AND HEARTS OF STUDENTS AT SAN MIGUEL HIGH SCHOOL?
Jo-Ann speaks very passionately about her ability to be present with her students and be someone that they can relate to as a young woman of faith. She says, “My students, especially the juniors and seniors, have gravitated toward me as a young person of faith. Many of them are beginning to think about life after high school, and they come to me with their concerns. Students just started gravitating to my office to visit. I felt like I was providing a relaxing, safe environment for students, and I soon realized they just enjoyed spending time with me. I recently asked one student what drew her to Lasallian Youth in the first place, and she responded with, ‘I heard you were cool and give good advice.’ I never eat lunch alone, because students are always visiting then! I am extremely grateful for the relationships I have formed with them, and I am so glad to be a part of their high school experience.” Jaclyn’s work with El Otro Lado informs her answer. She says, “Because of my work with El Otro Lado, many students have found my office as a place to start their journey in becoming advocates. It’s also become the only place on campus where some students have felt comfortable enough to reveal their own struggles with deportations in their families. Other students want to take part in El Otro Lado to better understand what their parent’s experience crossing the desert was like. And with the organizations and ministries that we’re affiliated with, I’ve been able to give students legal resources after having a family member detained by ICE. We primarily run an educational program, but I don’t believe we’re simply educating, we’re empowering.”
HOW HAS LIVING AND WORKING WITH THE DE LA SALLE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS IMPACTED JO-ANN AND JACLYN?
Living in community with Brothers was Jaclyn’s first experience of them. She says, “The Brothers have taught me how hard it is to be holy. Granted, it was never something that I thought would be easy! But living in a religious community has challenged me to gracefully and kindly accept the shortcomings of others as they simultaneously push me to overcome my shortcomings too. They may have the title “Brother” in front of their names, but they are just as good and imperfect as anyone else. And while I may have “Lasallian Volunteer” after my name, it in no way means I am a perfect servant. And they still love me, and they still see the good in me. They’ve taught me how to be a better educator and how to take these things I know and make it easier for my students to understand.” Jo-Ann says of living with the Brothers, “I became close with a few of the Brothers at the Manhattan College when I was a student, but living with them is a whole different experience. Community is family. You see the best and the worst of everyone, you share in each other’s triumphs and sorrows, and you are afforded the opportunity to learn so much as everyone is coming from a different place, literally and figuratively. The Brothers have taught me not to be afraid to share myself, and we accept one another unconditionally. They are consistently showing me the importance of trusting and relying on others. This mission is done best with the love of community.”
WHAT WOULD JACLYN AND JO-ANN SAY TO COLLEGE SENIORS DISCERNING A YEAR SPENT WITH THE LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS?
The volunteers are grateful for their time in the program. Jo-Ann says, “Lasallian Volunteers changes you, immensely and undoubtedly, for the best. This experience is hugely beneficial for everyone, personally and professionally. I think the willingness to jump into new environments has many advantages for everyone, not just those that are interested in education. LVs meet many individuals during their service experience that are willing to walk with you as you discern your life’s purpose. It’s a great experience that pushes you to grow in faith, service and community. I am exiting the program a far more mature, agile and grateful person than I was before the LV program.” Jaclyn echoes this when she says, “I would say to be honest with yourself – are you truly open to wherever He is calling you? Is there somewhere your heart is leaning towards? What are the reasons for that? Look back at the paths that brought you here. I guarantee that in your deepest heart you’ll recognize it when it comes to you.”
Service Site: St. Peter’s Boys High School, Staten Island, NY
What do you do?
I work as a campus minister, teaching assistant, I teach a Latin II class, and I am an assistant coach for our Ice Hockey program.
Why did you choose to become a Lasallian Volunteer?
I chose to become a Lasallian Volunteer because I was looking to do something meaningful after college that would also put me in a good place to discern my vocation. It helped that my sister Clare (04-06) and my cousin Kevin (08-10) both had very good experiences with the program, and it was easy to see how it changed them for the better.
My hopes for my service have been realized. The last two years have allowed me to grow personally, spiritually, and professionally. It is easy to see how the three core values of faith, service, and community have changed me for the better. My experience as a volunteer has helped me to grow in my faith and discern the seminary for the Diocese of Arlington.
How has your involvement with the De La Salle Christian Brothers affected you?
My involvement with the Brothers has impacted me for the better in a few aspects. Living with Christian Brothers has allowed me to grow in my faith through their commitment to education. Participating in prayer and community life with them provides an insight into the Lasallian charism that cannot be seen without the Brothers.
They have also challenged me to go beyond my own comfort zone. While this is a hallmark of Lasallian Volunteers itself, living with consecrated Brothers has provided a more genuine idea of what it means to dedicate your life and serve others through the example of St. John Baptist de La Salle. While I have not discerned a vocation to the De La Salle Christian Brothers, it has allowed me to see what it is like to dedicate your life to Christ and the Church.
What is the most important “thing” that your students need from you?
The most important “thing” that my students need from me is for me to be a role model. Anyone can design a prayer service, teach a lesson, or coach a sports team. What has occurred to me over the last year is that it is far more important that I provide an example of what it is to live and act like a Catholic in today’s world. To be a genuine and authentic example of what it means to be a young Catholic man is by far the thing my students need from me the most.
I try to provide this by challenging myself to be better every day with the support of the Brothers and my coworkers. All the little things–especially in how I act and in how I speak is–the students will remember the most. It is not very easy in today’s world to stand up and be Catholic, but I want to show them it is possible and you can be completely joyful while doing it.
Why would you recommend the LV program to a college senior considering volunteering?
I would recommend Lasallian Volunteers to any college senior because there might not be a better time in your life than now to serve others for a year or two. Not only are you helping others, but you often find what truly makes you happy. The LV experience is a journey of helping others and discovering yourself in the process. I would recommend the LV program over other volunteer programs because it is a faith based program with an incredibly strong support structure in place. No matter how your volunteer experience turns out it is a win-win.
Service Site: De La Salle Middle School at St. Matthews in St. Louis, MO.
College: Manhattan College, Riverdale, NY
What do you do?
I teach 5th, 6th, and 7th graders in Language Arts, Social Studies, and Religion, and I tutor students in Accelerated Math.
Why did you choose to become a Lasallian Volunteer?
I developed a passion for education during my undergraduate days at Manhattan College and sought to find a program where I could work with students, pushing them to reach their full potential. I specifically wanted to work with inner-city kids, and I wanted to be involved in a faith-based program. Lasallian Volunteers felt like the perfect fit for me. Now that I am finishing my second year of service, I feel like I was always meant to work towards the Lasallian mission. This program has challenged me in ways I never expected; it has pushed me to be my best self, and it has introduced me to some phenomenal kids and educators.
What is the most important “thing,” do you think, that your students/clients/guests need from you?
Although teaching is the main portion of my job, I think the most important “thing” I do is serve as mentor for the students. Working in a middle school, emotions are always very high and the students I work with are still trying to figure themselves out. We have a behavior system in our school called “BIST” where teachers have the opportunity to work one-on-one with children to help them get through some of their emotional hardships. We talk through each problem with our students and discuss what behavioral skills we need to improve on. During these meetings, students are able to open up to the adults in the school and the teachers are able to express themselves to the kids; this helps the educators foster growth-producing relationships with each student. When I’m in the position where I’m talking to students, I feel like I’m able to connect with them on a deeper level and become someone they can trust. From actively engaging in these challenging conversations with students, I have found that more students come to me just to talk, even when I’m not using “BIST.” I feel like I have become a comfort for many students—I don’t always have an answer to their problems/concerns but I’m always there to listen.
Give an example of a time when you knew you were making a difference.
Towards the end of the first semester this year, my students were completing a DBQ (Document-Based Question) about Islam. Many students were struggling with this writing assignment; the documents we were analyzing were challenging and the writing style we used was very structured. One student in particular continually put his head down during the class period and refused to write. I began working with him one-on-one more often; we would discuss his paper after school during our Homework Club and I would push him to work his hardest during class. For the last two weeks of the semester, I was pushing him to go further with his writing and his analysis. On the last day of the quarter, he had a formal, organized paper to turn in. He wore a look of accomplishment on his face as he handed in his paper, illustrating his pride in his work. That afternoon, I received an email from his mother thanking me for everything I’ve done for this student, expressing how he feels comfortable around me, and that I truly help him understand, even when things are challenging. The look on this student’s face as he turned in his paper and this wonderful email from his parent completely lifted me up. It’s moments like this where I feel like I am making a difference—making students feel more confident in their work and themselves.
Why would you recommend the LV program to a college senior considering volunteering?
I would recommend joining the Lasallian Volunteers because it completely opens up your world, challenges you, and introduces you to incredible people. Before joining the LV program, my world was incredibly small. I had grown up and went to college in the NJ/NY area and most of my friends were in the same boat as me. When I went to my first LV orientation, I was incredibly excited to meet people from all over the country. Within my service experience, I’ve traveled all over the Midwest (even Iowa…who would have thought a Jersey girl would thrive in all those cornfields?) to visit other people in my LV cohort and have developed great relationships with my fellow volunteers. I can honestly say I have met some of my best friends through this program. Additionally, this program takes you out of your comfort zone—I needed to persevere through difficult situations at my service site, and it has helped me grow into the person I always wanted to be. This program has given me the opportunity to take the knowledge I gained in college and put it into practice.
Service Site: San Miguel School, Chicago
University: La Salle University in Philadelphia, PA.
What do you do?
At San Miguel I am an 8th grade Math, Science, and Reading teacher, and I Co-Teach 6th grade Math. I coach 7th and 8th grade co-ed soccer, 6th grade girls’ basketball, and 7th and 8th grade girls’ softball.
What is the most important “thing,” do you think, that your students need from you?
The most important thing that I believe my students need from me is my presence and just being there for them. The students at San Miguel come from a place where they might not always have someone paying attention to what they are doing, or being able to support them fully.
As a staff member at San Miguel, the students are my number one priority and I make sure every single day to acknowledge their presence in my class, at lunch, or even on the field. Whether it is making sure I call on every student during science class, playing dodgeball against my class at recess, or even staying late to attend games for teams I am not coaching, I try my best to make sure my students know that I care about each and every one of them. I want nothing more at the end of my volunteer year than to see all my students succeed. The best way to see that success through is by being there to encourage and be present for them the entire journey.
Was there a moment when you felt accepted by your students?
San Miguel does an amazing job at providing students a chance to leave the classroom and go on different trips to grow in community with their teachers and one another. In October, I along with three other staff members and the 8th grade class went to Camp Gray, a catholic camp for kids, in Wisconsin. We stayed for three days and two nights and did various group bonding activities. I was very excited for this trip because I was curious to see the students outside the classroom and eager to bond with them on a different level.
At Camp Gray I felt like I was a different “Mr. Bowers.” I got to be myself and let my
teacher guard down and really just have fun with my students. The moment I felt most accepted by them was when it was my turn to climb the rock wall. I have never ever enjoyed climbing rock walls–they hurt and I usually never make it to the top–but by the encouragement of my students I said I would give it a try. As I started to climb, I came to the realization that this whole getting to the top of the wall was not going to happen. After I stopped a few times and slipped a couple of times I was about to quit. However, the whole class started to cheer for me and encourage me to keep going. They continued to yell at me from down below and told me, “You didn’t let us quit you better keep going.” At that moment I realized that they were right. I realized that they were accepting me as not just their teacher but as someone in their life they need to look up to. I was not about to just “quit” on them. So, I climbed to the top of that rock wall, rang the bell, came down and thanked every single student for believing in me because it was their acceptance and their encouragement that made me realize I truly was a part of their San Miguel family.
If you could project ahead a few years and look back to now, how do you think your experiences with those you serve and with the brothers will have changed you?
If I could get in a time machine and move forward a couple years and look back on my time thus far as a Lasallian Volunteer all I would be able to do is thank God for such a unique opportunity. The opportunity to pause my life where it was and serve a population I would probably not have even come in contact with is tremendous. Being a Lasallian Volunteer has slowed my life down drastically over the past 7 months and helped me to realize not only who I am now but also whom I want to become moving forward.
From every Let Us Remember, to every Live Jesus in Our Hearts, serving in a Lasallian school and living in a Lasallian community has helped me to realize my true passion in life. My passion is being Lasallian. Although I have always thought this, the year of service has made me more sure than I ever could have been a year ago. Because I have been a Lasallian Volunteer my life truly has been changed for the better.
What would you say to a friend from home who questioned why you chose to live with the Brothers?
After being taught by the Christian Brothers for 8 years, the best answer I could give to why I would chose to live with the Christian Brothers is, “why not?” I have always looked at the Christian Brothers as extended family members who just love to joke around and have a good time. However, for as much fun as they like to have they also have even more wisdom and advice to offer. Living in community with the brothers this year has given me not only more laughs than I could have ever imagined, but also more advice and wisdom than I would have ever expected in a year of service.