The Lasallian mission touches the hearts of students by providing inclusive, faith-filled communities led by dedicated educators who are attentive to the needs of students. It is in these environments where students—and educators—share in transformative experiences that prepare them for life, work and service. As the coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020, ministries quickly adapted how they serve those entrusted to their care, and Lasallian groups found ways to connect virtually on important topics facing the world today. Below are just a few examples of innovative ways in which educators supported their students, schools and alumni served the community, and more.
Health Care Professionals Remain on the Frontline
Among the heroes of this pandemic are valiant health care professionals. In the San Francisco New Orleans District (SFNO), the nursing team and leadership work to balance the ever-changing county regulations to formulate a coherent and evolving District-wide policy to help keep the Brothers in the community safe. Students, like Shayla Gramajo, are also doing their part to keep people safe. Gramajo, a biology and chemistry major at Manhattan College, worked as a COVID-19 contact tracer and certified nurse aide in addition to her studies. (Pictured: Natalie Gonzalez, left, and Emily Ellis, SFNO certified nursing assistants)
Retreat Center Reaches Hundreds of Students In-Person and Virtually
The Villa des Jeunes (VDJ) in St-Augustin-de-Desmaures, Québec, is a retreat center that welcomes more than 200 groups from 40 schools each year. Throughout pandemic, the VDJ leaders asked themselves how they can reach students who are not allowed to visit the center due to COVID-19. After a period of reflection, the VDJ decided to bring training/animation workshops on “knowing how to live together” and “persistence” directly into schools. The virtual and in-person visits touched the hearts of hundreds of young people, as they are experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety associated with the pandemic.
Community Center Forges Partnership to Serve Neighbors
The Saint-Michel Lasallian Center (SMLC) in Montréal, Québec, is a community center that serves the Saint-Michel district, one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Montréal. Throughout the pandemic, the SMLC had to reinvent itself by building upon existing relationships with organizations and initiating new partnerships to help provide the community with internet access, academic support for students, a food distribution center for families and opportunities for students with special needs and more. The SMLC plans to continue to put in place initiatives that it possible to quickly overcome difficulties that slow down young people’s development.
Alumni Give Back to their Alma Mater
When Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) in Syracuse, New York, faced a shortage of substitute teachers for the 2020-2021 school year, the school developed a creative solution. CBA reached out to recent graduates who were attending college remotely or working from home and asked them if they would like to return to their alma mater to fill in. About 20 alumni, including Dana Tuohey ‘16 (pictured), have served as substitutes.
Online Tutoring Helps Students Succeed During Remote Learning
Tides Family Services and Ocean Tides in Rhode Island answered the call from concerned parents and staff as schools transitioned to remote learning in March 2020. Discussions focused on specific support services that would help students and parents reach their potential in this new environment. In collaboration with the District of Eastern North America, TidesLearning was launched shortly thereafter. With over one hundred volunteer educator and student tutors, TidesLearning provides learning resources, parent counseling and digital tutoring sessions to all students.
Retreats Go Virtual to Promote Social Justice
The Br. David Darst Center, a social justice retreat center in Chicago, Illinois, has had to reimagine its way of educating youth on social justice issues. Pivoting from in-person gatherings, the center began hosting virtual retreats during the pandemic to educate young people about the challenges those on the margins face and to provide ideas for how young people can change the systems that perpetuate injustice.
Lasallian Volunteers Reimagined
Lasallian Volunteers (LV) has had to find creative ways to continue its commitment to personal relationships and service during a time of social distancing. During the pandemic, retreats and meetings were held virtually to support the volunteers and give them opportunities to connect, reflect and share best practices. While some were able to teach in person, many volunteers have had to teach remotely and develop ways to connect with the young people they serve from a distance. Even though this past service year has been a challenging time, it has made the staff and volunteers think of innovative ways to connect with one another to grow professionally and personally and live the core LV values of faith, service and community.
Lasallians Engage in Justice and Educational Webinar Opportunities
This past year, Lasallians from around the world have gathered virtually to take part in powerful discussions on racial justice and education. In response to the killing of George Floyd, Lasallian organizations collaborated to host the livestream discussion “Responding to Racism: A Lasallian Dialogue” on June 25, 2020. During the dialogue, attended by over 1,600 people from 34 countries, four Lasallian educators discussed racism and how to act in response to systemic and institutional racism. Lasallians were given another opportunity for open dialogue on April 7, 2021, when more than 200 participants from 15 countries attended “Justice in the World and the Mission of Lasallian Education Today: Enacting the Common Good.” The discussion allowed time for participants to reflect on how they can promote justice in their ministries and for those entrusted to their care.