Connecting With Fellow Lasallians: Five Students Travel to Rio for Lasallian Conference

by Haley Burnside & Shannon GlebaSenior Writer & Copy Editor

In the month of July, five students and one faculty member journeyed nearly five thousand miles from New York City to Rio de Janeiro in order to broaden their understanding of the Lasallian mission. 

Hayden Greene, the director of the Multicultural Center, worked alongside Brother Jack Curran to organize the trip for a handful of selected students. These students spent two weeks in Brazil to participate in the International Lasallian Leadership and Global Understanding Program. 

Greene, who was able to travel with MC students to this conference this year for a third time, enjoyed seeing the participants collaborate and share their views.

“On this conference these students interact with people from places like Argentina, for example. They’ll put their views up against the views of people from other countries with different values and they get to measure that up,” said Greene.

While all conference participants come from Lasallian schools, geographical location impacts a school’s stance on certain matters.

“When you start to look at Lasallian education and leadership and then look at all of the issues you’ve been facing as an American student and you juxtapose that against what, say, the Philippines are going through, it broadens the way that you can look at these issues.”

Greene continued, “We tend to look at things in a binary with polar opposites in this country. You’re either ‘this thing’ or you’re ‘that thing.’ What happens on this conference is that students come in thinking they are either left or right, and they come out of it having realized that there is a center, an up, a down, etc.”

Although Brother Jack was not able to attend the trip, he has experience with this particular program. 

“While I was not, unfortunately, able to participate this year, I’ve had the good fortune to participate in the program a couple years ago when it was held in Mexico and then an earlier year when it was held in Rome,” said Curran. 

On these previous trips he worked alongside Greene to facilitate the students in their experience at the conference.

Of the students who attended the Rio trip, Junior Rabea Ali believes that she gained more than just some historical context while in Brazil.

“Initially, the purpose of the trip was to gain knowledge about the Lasallian world and just how far it extends. Also, to learn about John Baptist De La Salle’s origins and the legacy he lives on in education,” said Ali. 

“Over the duration of the conference, that seemed to disappear in the content and so the purpose became more about building connections with students from other Lasallian schools across the world.”

Reilly Rebhahn, another student who attended the conference, also found a meaning beyond what was taught in the talks of the conference. 

“This trip has helped me gain insight on what it means to network as a Lasallian community. Connecting with so many international students and discussing how our individual experiences as Lasallians have shaped our paths and academic settings was eye opening,” said Rebhahn.

She believed that exchanging stories and getting to know the other student attendants provided her with a wider perspective of the Lasallian world.

Gabriella Montes, a junior at the college, was also thankful for the connections and skills she was able to gain at the conference, despite not knowing what to expect.

“This leadership program isn’t like any other I’ve been apart of. While it does have guest speakers and ‘lectures’ they’re run more like workshops. Our experience in Brazil was very hands ons, which made it that much more meaningful,” said Montes.

In addition to Ali, Rebhan and Montes, the conference was also attended by two other MC students, August Kissel and Jaime Alvarez. All of the students who attended the Lasallian conference had the unique opportunity to both gain important leadership experience while making new friends from over ten countries around the world.

The students shared many of the most impactful moments on the trip, such as visiting the pe pequeño (little foot) community in Rio, and they will most definitely never forget the experience.

Montes said,”Looking back on my experience in Brazil, there are so many wonderful moments that picking a favorite is a near impossible task. However, something that will always stick with me is how on one of our last night all together we went and spent it on the beach.” 

She continued, “We got together to dance, play volleyball, talk and just enjoy our time together. And between the sounds of the wave’s crashes, laughter and the ball hitting the sand, it really couldn’t have been a more blissful experience.”