by Samantha Walla, Asst. Production Editor
Four post-graduate Lasallian Volunteers currently work on Manhattan College’s campus while educating the student body, particularly graduating seniors, about the benefits of becoming a Lasallian Volunteer. Jeff Lucia, Rebecca Hulick, Matt Billings and Jo-Ann Mullooly speak about their experiences in the Lasallian Volunteer Program to aid those interested in service make decisions about their post-graduate options.
Lasallian Volunteers, or LVs, as they are commonly referred, are recent graduates who dedicate one or more years to service within communities with the De La Salle Christian Brothers. These communities, which exist throughout the country, utilize the skills of LVs as teachers, social workers and sports coaches among others. The program values faith, service and community, not only imparted from volunteers to those they serve, but from the community to the volunteers as well.
Rebecca Hulick spent two years in El Paso, Texas with the Christian Brothers after graduating from Penn State University.
Hulick currently works as a graduate assistant in the Dean of Students Office while she pursues her Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and enjoys talking to current students about her experience.
“If you’re passionate about helping others, talk to us,” said Hulick. “This a great program if you want to give back to others or help the underserved areas of our country. It doesn’t matter your major, if helping is something that interests you, check out the program!”
Hulick joined the Lasallian Volunteers at the recommendation of her aunt, who worked at St. Mary’s College of California. After learning about the program, Hulick felt that it was the right path to take.
“How to remain humble in the midst of chaos,” answered Hulick when asked what she learned from her experience. “I learned so much from the Christian Brothers, especially the brothers of El Paso. They taught me the simple act of humility which I carry with me today.”
Living in community is an aspect of the Lasallian Volunteer Program that distinguishes it from other volunteer programs.
Hulick’s day began and ended with morning prayer in her community after teaching Freshman religion, tutoring students in English and co-leading Lasallian Youth with one of her community members. Time away from work was spent with the Brothers and other volunteers in community, who live and eat together.
Matt Billings also pointed to community as an important aspect of his experience. After graduating from Christian Brothers University in 2014 with a civil engineering degree, Billings decided that he wanted to do something beneficial and impactful in a community larger than himself. In the program, Billings taught math at La Salle Academy on the Lower East Side. During this time, he lived in a house with four other volunteers and four Brothers.
“When you first move in, you’re moving in with complete strangers, but after a couple of weeks, or a couple months in becomes like a family. Living in community is a huge aspect [of the program] that puts it in a very different light,” said Billings.
“I was not expecting a whole lot. I thought I would just go in and teach math for two years, then leave. Now I’m two years removed from the volunteer program and I still talk to the Brothers I lived with, I still go down to the school and visit… It had a very lasting impression on me and I still to this day do a lot of service for the Christian Brothers. It’s something that really helped me change and really helped me grow.”
Billings has since returned to school for his Master’s degree, this time at Manhattan, where he also works in the department of Residence Life. Billings hopes to use his Master’s to work in disaster relief and infrastructure design.
According to Billings, the community extends beyond living arrangements and to the actual volunteer site.
“The students have the biggest impact on you. You think going in that you’re going to be impacting their lives, but honestly do all the impacting on you. Just the small interactions like they’ve had a bad day so you take them out for a cup of coffee or invite them on the next field trip or service event with you and they just kind of open up. It’s just those small connections with the students there that give you that meaningful relationship. You feel like you’re actually doing a lot of good for the students.”
Jeffery Lucia spent his two years serving in different locations, where his interactions with students also defined his experience. During his first year, he served as the High School Program Coordinator at John XXIII Educational Center in Racine, Wisconsin, which is an after-school educational resource center serving K-12 students and their families. He spent his second year as a Residential Counselor at the Ocean Tides School, residential treatment center for court-adjudicated male youth ages 13-18, located in Narragansett, Rhode Island.
Lucia decided to spend time as an LV after graduating from La Salle University in 2015 where he studied Secondary Education and planned to teach history post-graduation.
“I’ve always had a passion for education,” said Lucia. “However, I was always curious about other possible careers in education aside from traditional classroom teaching. During my time at La Salle, I had also cultivated a strong passion for the Lasallian mission and integrated the values in my work.”
After hearing passionate retellings of traveling across the country, working with diverse communities and receiving support and encouragement from older friends who had participated in the program, Lucia knew that his support of the Lasallian mission and interest in teaching made him an ideal candidate to be an LV.
Lucia continues both his studies and his work with education as an LV Scholar in his second-year studying School Counseling at Manhattan College. Lucia also works as the Graduate Assistant for the Orientation Office and interns in the Counseling Department at a charter high school in the Bronx.
“Students have so many individuals come in and out of their lives at such a rapid pace,” said Lucia. “They internalize lessons, both positive and negative, from both their peers and adult figures. It’s important that the stakeholders in a student’s life share the same mission and goals and act as a community that fosters collaboration and holistic education for the betterment of the child.”
“Having worked and served in a variety of education-based settings, particularly as a Lasallian Volunteer, I’ve learned the importance of cultivating the mindset that it takes a village to raise a child. I think we all have a part to play in making sure any individual student can succeed, not just academically, but socially and emotionally, as well. Teachers, administrators, parents, deans, coaches, social workers, and so many more individuals each have a responsibility and a role to fulfill in a student’s life.”
Jo-Ann Mullooly, class of 2016, was first exposed to the Lasallian Volunteer program while at Manhattan College. In addition to participating in the Lasallian Outreach Volunteer Experience, or L.O.V.E. program, Mullooly’s relationship with Brother Ray Meagher promoted “Lasallian charism.”
“I have a very special memory of Brother Ray as graduation day grew near and my anxiety was through the roof. He said, “People you haven’t even met yet are waiting for you to change their lives.”
After realizing that seeking faith, service, and community could help her achieve her post-graduation and life goals, becoming an LV seemed like a perfect way to accomplish them.
Mullooly volunteered for one year at a middle school in St. Louis, Missouri and spent her second year at a high school in Tucson, Arizona.
“It’s a great experience that pushes you to grow in faith, service and community,” said Mullooly. “I left the program a far more mature, agile and grateful person than I was before joining.”
Mullooly is currently working toward her masters degree in counseling at Manhattan College in addition to being the graduate assistant for the new Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center, which is opening officially on October 19.
“This experience is hugely beneficial for everyone, personally and professionally,” Mullooly said. “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.”
In spite of the different experiences of the LVs, they all encourage Manhattan College students with an interest in volunteer work to explore the program
“I think the Lasallian Volunteers is a fantastic opportunity to get exposed to different peoples, environments, and careers in education and social services. It’s made up of a passionate group of individuals with a shared mission that’s difficult to come by today,” said Lucia. “As someone who is not Catholic or even Christian, I never felt out of place. In fact, I found a new home in this organization and felt like I could explore my faith in a safe way. The fact that the Lasallian mission is transcendent of any particular faith practice is part of what makes the work as a Lasallian Volunteer so powerful. I strongly encourage anyone who is even remotely interested in post-grad volunteering to look into this program.”
“I’ve never really talked to anyone or known anyone that’s left the program with a bad taste in their mouths. The interactions with the students help you grow in a way that working professionally can’t really provide you. It helps you to see the injustice in society a lot more and how some students are treated based off of socioeconomics, race, culture… it helps you be more aware of your surroundings and be more inclusive.”
The Lasallian Volunteers encourage interested students to visit LasallianVolunteers.org or contact Kathleen Swain, director of Lasallian Volunteers, KSwain@cbconf.org