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Living as disciples of Jesus, members of our community strive to embody what Jesus taught and how he lived.
Serving others first was central to Jesus’ message and ministry. “…just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
The servant model, established by Jesus, was popularized and secularized in the twentieth century by Robert Greenleaf, who coined the phrase “servant leadership.” Someone who has a natural feeling to want to serve and then makes a conscious choice to lead represents the concept of servant leadership.
The ten characteristics of a servant leader, as described by Greenleaf, include:
BSM is proud to highlight people who embody the mission of Jesus through their leadership.
Zoe Aanestad & Maddie Moore
Being married for 67 years is a strong example of commitment and devotion. So then when that couple must live separately, the adjustment can present a challenging situation. That is the case for Roland and Doris at Parkshore Senior Campus. Because Doris has begun struggling with Alzheimer’s, she needs special care and maintains a different room in the facility than her beloved husband.
|Roland, Zoe, Maddie and Doris share a close bond.|
Two BSM juniors are helping these two continue to sustain their quality time by visiting Parkshore twice each week. What started as a project for Discipleship class has become a true labor of love for Zoe Aanestad and Maddie Moore. Each Sunday and Monday, they spend one-and-a-half to three hours with residents there, particularly ensuring that Roland and Doris can join them whenever possible. As Doris tearfully explained to the girls one day, “I’m so happy for us to be here. These are tears of joy.” With relatives living out of the area, the couple is grateful that the girls come. This allows Roland and Doris to have extra time that they are allowed to be with each other.
The teenagers have found beauty in the moments too. “They are the cutest thing ever,” says Maddie. “You learn so much from their experiences.” Zoe explains that the four of them usually just eat popcorn and talk, and over the months, the couple has shared how they met in high school, presented parenting workshops to others, started the Caring Youth Awards Program and more. Hearing these types of stories and sharing experiences in this way “give people new perspectives,” Maddie says. Zoe agrees, stating, “[Volunteering] changes who you are.”
The girls admit that their elderly friends have stressed how big of a difference the girls’ visits have made in their lives. It’s Zoe and Maddie’s example of commitment and devotion to servant leadership that is making that difference and keeping love strong.
Find the sum of a teacher who adds a life of discipleship to a career in mathematics and a heart filled with care and concern. The answer? BSM math teacher Mary Seppala.
|Mary lends her personality to math lessons.|
Currently in her ninth year as a Red Knight, Catholic education has proven to be a good fit for Mary, who shares her faith as readily as she does the Pythagorean theorem. Fellow teacher Zach Zeckser states, “Mary is a teacher of the faith, her canvas for this work happens to be excellent teaching of mathematics.” He adds, “She listens to students share their fears and hopes on a very personal level, and she shares her own faith with them with an uncommon coupling of humility and enthusiasm.”
Mary believes, “Life is a much bigger picture than high school. If I’m aware of something that’s going on with a student, I try to subtly connect and be a person they can talk to. I want to make sure they know they’re being taken care of.” Her encouraging and approachable personality is obvious on any given day, and she jokingly shares that even when she’s shopping in a mall, strangers seem to naturally gravitate to her with questions.
But not every day has been sunny for Mary. Having seen her share of adversity in recent years, through a house fire, deaths and more, she says, “I always trust that things will work out. God takes care of us.” Thinking back further, she admits that she hated math until 11th grade. “I remember crying while trying to do homework. It just didn’t come naturally to me.” But hard work and perseverance changed her opinion of the subject and have left her with a unique understanding of the students who dislike math. Rather than feeling discouraged by them, Mary feels an exhilarating challenge. “I like trying to catch those students and turn their perspective around.”
At BSM, she has also served as a retreat chaperone and Eucharistic minister, emceed a Catholic Schools Week celebration, and vivaciously helped lead the faculty/staff flash mob. Away from school, she has volunteered at several organizations and filled the role as Confirmation sponsor to a BSM student. “I just do what I can to find little ways to help,” says Mary.
As Zach points out, “I would love for my three children to sit in a desk in Mary Seppala’s classroom, as I know they would learn math and faith without compromising either.”
That’s an answer with which many Red Knight parents would likely agree.
Mary Pat Ross
“People give me a lot of energy,” says sophomore Mary Pat Ross. She must live a very crowded life, because this young go-getter makes the Energizer Bunny look sluggish.
|Mary Pat Ross (far left) and other students have
already had a chance to meet Sister Helen Prejean.
While participating on BSM’s speech team as an 8th grader, Mary Pat read the book Dead Man Walking, by Sister Helen Prejean, for a Prose category presentation. She became so interested in Sister Helen's experiences and philosophy that she began writing to her. When BSM high school teachers later became aware of Mary Pat’s connection with the acclaimed author, they wondered if Mary Pat could convince her to visit BSM. Well, anyone who knows Mary Pat has no problem believing that given this challenge, she completed a comprehensive application process and used her friendly persistence to arrange for Sister Helen to lead a school assembly here next fall—something educators at BSM and elsewhere often struggle to secure.
“I like building bridges,” says Mary Pat, and jokes that being the oldest child (younger sister Josie is an 8th grade Red Knight) has given her an “alpha dog” mentality. Another way that Mary Pat has shown leadership is through the organization of the BSM’s new Communication Club, a group she co-founded this past year with fellow student Parker Breza. Together they coordinate video projects, guest speakers and other activities for about 40 of their peers.
She is also currently directing a play at the Chaska Valley Family Theater, where she has served on the Board of Directors for two terms. In that role, she decided to begin a scholarship fund for student actors and implemented fundraising campaigns to raise $10,000 during her first two projects.
Her ambition and desire to serve seems limitless. “Ideas come to me daily,” Mary Pat admits, smiling. “Once in a while I get a good one and go for it,” she explains, noting that she credits God’s plan as the key source of inspiration. But serving God also means serving humankind. “I’m passionate about people,” says this self-proclaimed extravert. “I enjoy helping others find success and accomplish their dreams. That’s exciting to me.”
And it shows.
|Jake and Helen enjoy each other's company.
It’s good to have friends. For senior Jake Szarzynski, two of his friends are Helen and Paul, who live at the nursing home down the street from him and his family. Jake began volunteering there at the beginning of his junior year and tries to make a visit every Wednesday and Thursday evening. “It’s just four hours a week,” he modestly says. By many high school schedule standards, that’s an impressive amount of free time to surrender. Yet, for Jake, the moments with his older pals are well spent. He says that they often engage in rousing games of Kings in the Corner or Crazy Eights, perhaps with old movies playing in the background. With Helen, Paul, and some of the other residents, Jake explains that comfortable silence is an accepted part of their time together. Often, they just sit, enjoying each other’s company.
Sometimes Jake’s freshman sister, Bella, and their mom come along, and Jake is trying to recruit Bella to fill his shoes if he should move away to college. “It breaks my heart,” says Jake, when he thinks about the possibility of someone not visiting his friends on a regular basis in the future. After all, who would give demonstrations to them about how to use the new-fangled cell phones or tell stories of current high school life, as Jake does now?
Jake seems to be easily motivated to offer help. He organized the pond hockey tournament to benefit Jack Jablonski both of the past two winters. He has also helped out with the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Program. In Summer 2011, he was invited to attend their leadership program, and because he has stayed active as a junior facilitator and volunteer there—and elsewhere—ever since, the group is honoring him with an award this spring.
Jake is not one who seeks to do good deeds for awards, though. The friendships, alone, are the best gift of all.
Avery Bather & Katie Burns
John 14:27 states, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”
|Avery & Katie with one of their
friends from the Peace Dinners.
Juniors Avery Bather and Katie Burns are bringing a piece of themselves to the Peace Dinners, held at Ascension School in North Minneapolis every month. They are not only event leaders, but also two of 10 members who have been selected to be on the planning committee. At the dinners, the girls might interact with a couple dozen or a couple hundred people, usually serving beverages and helping lead activities for children during the event. “The kids are my favorite part,” says Katie. Avery agrees, confiding that the play time is a great way to bring some stress relief to a busy junior year.
Katie adds that learning more about the Hispanic culture through the people with whom she comes in contact has been an added bonus, and overall, the experience has opened her eyes to the greater community around her. Other cultural glimpses she has had through volunteer opportunities have come through her service at a summer language camp and through time spent helping at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital. Wanting to be a doctor herself someday, she has especially enjoyed “the satisfaction in seeing that you’re helping.”
Avery has a broad base of volunteer activities as well, having helped at various churches and schools. While it is human nature to feel comfortable with familiarity, Avery says, “I’ve found I like going to a place outside my comfort zone.” She believes that it gives her a greater sense of accomplishment.
Both girls readily state that helping others has become vitally important to them. “I can’t visualize my life without [volunteerism],” says Katie. Helping to bring others peace may always represent a piece of who they are.
“It was a no-brainer,” says junior Sage Fulco.
|Sage brings his interest in tutoring
to his service work.
The “no-brainer” for him was a chance to use his brain to help others. Two years ago, he began tutoring at Center of Our Lives, through his church. “I had never worked with little kids before, and I was surprised by how much I liked it.” Sage now also now spends about four hours every Monday night tutoring not only young first-grade students, but also fellow high schoolers, at Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners. With only a few volunteers available, he knows that his services are in need and he sees how grateful those he helps are. “I’ve realized just how important it is…It makes a world of difference.”
In addition to tutoring, Sage helps by serving food at the locations. And when he’s not volunteering at one of these places, he might be found giving his time at BSM, where he regularly helps with admissions open houses and was a student coach for the junior high robotics team. This past summer he also spent time at a nursing home, so he encourages others to experiment with different ways to volunteer.
For his own immediate future, Sage wants to focus most on continuing to tutor students. “I’ve just had a ball,” he shares. Summing up some of his past services experiences, he says “Everyday we are called to make the lives of others brighter; but this cooking and playing with children is real ministry for me.”
In swimming, the butterfly stroke is arguably one of the most difficult. As a swimming coach, senior Elle Scott has taken on the challenge of teaching swimmers to butterfly. But she’s not just any swimming coach.
|Elle, standing, gives tips to the swimmers at
In fall 2011, Elle began coaching at Courage Center, helping elementary-age and teenage youth to swim. She has always enjoyed swimming herself. As a junior, she was the team manager for the Red Knight girls’ team, and joined the team as a senior this year. However, it’s the time at the Courage Center that has really made a splash with her. “I’ve realized just how much I love volunteering,” says Elle, who devotes every Sunday afternoon to this special swim team. In fact, she’s so passionate about this cause, that she enlisted others to join in. Along with another BSM senior who began volunteering with Elle last fall, two Red Knight juniors are now on the coaching staff.
The love that Elle has developed for giving her time has blossomed in other ways. Last spring she participated on BSM’s Guatemala mission trip, helping at an orphanage. She says of the experience, “It completely changed me.” While she is interested in pursuing a career in bio-medical engineering, she may lean toward the nonprofit sector. “I just want to do service work forever,” she states, explaining that she one day hopes to live in a Spanish-speaking country, putting her combined skills (she’s in AP Spanish) and interests to work.
Elle maintains variety through her volunteering experiences and has been actively involved in RKVC during high school. But working with kids, in particular, brings an immediate smile to her face. Her commitment is evident, and it’s easy to imagine her future plans evolving. When they do, some “butterfly” action will again take place…as Elle gives others wings and helps them fly.
|Rachel shows a countdown-to
Chrstimas chain that Holiday Club
students made one morning.
Sometimes it’s the little things that make big differences. For instance, when some BSM classrooms were recently decorated by mysterious “elves,” the teachers and students who use those classrooms probably got a dose of holiday cheer.
Leading the elves was senior Rachel Thorstenson, who came up with the idea to start a Holiday Club this year. She says that she misses the crafts and projects that were part of December activities in elementary school, and wanted to inspire some extra Red Knight Christmas joy. With about 30 people involved in the Holiday Club, the group is gaining momentum like Santa’s sleigh leaving the North Pole.
Sharing her time is nothing new for Rachel. Since 6th grade, she has helped out at the Indian Health Board (IHB) in south Minneapolis. She began by doing face-painting for the children there, and progressed to doing a variety of both interactive and behind-the-scenes tasks. Serving as a Spanish translator, reviewing inventory, sorting and gathering data from medical files, sending letters to families whose children are due for vaccinations are all ways that Rachel has served this organization. Since Rachael wants to enter the medical field herself someday, she is grateful for what she has learned from her IHB experiences. She says, “It’s a different kind of education”—one that gives her a broader view of some people’s day-to-day lives.
She has also volunteered at Perspectives and wants to incorporate service work into the Holiday Club, in part because of how her time at IHB has affected her. “I see a lot there.” Even so, she says that the people with whom she comes in contact with understand how to appreciate the little things.
And what people see in Rachel is someone who knows how to make a difference.
Humility. Thoughtfulness. Maturity. Kindness. These characteristics are often used when describing true servant leaders. They are also used when describing senior Jonathan Sutton, someone that theology teacher Zach Zeckser refers to as “a 12th grade Mr. J.”
|Jonathan pals around with some of
his Guatemalan friends.
As Theology teacher Alison Frank shares, it is not unusual for students to approach her and start conversations with “Jonathan says...,” with them giving him credibility as their moral barometer. “He’s their source of wisdom,” Ms. Frank notes of students’ perceptions of Jonathan. She also tells of Jonathan’s participation in some of her classes…classes that are not on his schedule, but ones that he chooses to sit in on, simply to learn more.
“Passionate about his beliefs,” is how classmate Gavin McLain describes Jonathan. Eric vonKampen emphatically, but sincerely adds, “He’s the nicest boy to ever live.” While many Red Knights are nice and have strong values, Jonathan has made a definite impression on his peers and teachers through his own actions and interactions that support these characteristics. His friends comment that he is consistent in stopping negative talk about other people, even when he doesn’t know the person being criticized. He can spot when someone is having a bad day and lends a listening ear. And when classmate Frank Torvik remembers being on the Guatemala mission trip with him, Frank says that Jonathan exuded happiness and hard work. There, Jonathan specifically helped the shyer Guatemalan children to feel comfortable with the BSM group, all while bringing out the best in his peers.
If there is any point of frustration that others have with Jonathan, it is that he never wants anything in return. When told of this honor as a servant leader, Jonathan couldn’t help but chuckle, saying that his friends have been chiding him to put more attention on himself. Still, he insists, “I just want to be that guy—the one that others can always come to. The more I help others, the better things are for me.” As Gavin sums up, “It’s just how he lives.”
|Morgan tends her garden with love.|
A popular nursery rhyme asks “Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow?”
It seems that BSM’s “Mary,” is senior Morgan Larson. A few years ago, Morgan began a 10-foot by 10-foot garden in her yard. That garden is now roughly four times that size, and it’s not producing “silver bells and cockle shells.” Tomatoes, five types of peppers, cucumbers, leeks, green onions, carrots, four types of lettuce, and caulirabi are just some of vegetables that Morgan has been known to nurture.
But it’s not just Morgan’s green thumb that brought her to mind as a servant leader. She is virtually a walking, no-cost farmer’s market to those around her, offering her free vegetables to relatives, friends, teachers, and even to BSM’s cafeteria. “I don’t need anything,” says Morgan. “It’s not about getting back, but giving and seeing people smile.” When her anticipated way to use her own fennel didn’t go as planned, she turned it over to the professionals in our Taher kitchen. Taher manager Lynn Lynch was excited by this and other offerings from Morgan and says that she is the only student so far to take this initiative.
Morgan is proactive in other ways too. In keeping with the food theme, she has volunteered at Feed My Starving Children and by serving meals at local charitable organizations. Also, with a passion for art, she enjoys making homemade cards for people, but only after she has researched their interests so that she can craft a card reflecting those ideas.
Most rewarding to Morgan these days is the responsibility of her garden though…despite an allergy to grass, occasional nasty sunburns, and sore muscles. She has learned about the importance of rotating positions for certain crops and about composting. And growing right along with her produce are her own characteristics of humility and generosity. “I’m just a gardener who wants to give veggies where they won’t go to waste.”
So how does Morgan’s garden grow? With compassion.
|Yemi, modeling one of the bags she made in Ethiopia.|
Junior Yemi Benyame has a vision. She strives to see the world as a “good and peaceful place.” This daughter of Ethiopian parents says, “I want to help people I can connect to.” Perhaps that’s why the organization Vision of Africa turned out to be such a good fit as a volunteer experience for Yemi this past summer.
Although she was born and raised in America, Yemi has made multiple trips to visit relatives in Ethiopia. In preparation for her most recent trek, she knew she wanted to find a way to serve others while there. Her grandfather, who lives in Ethiopia, contacted a friend of his who works with the Vision of Africa program, which helps women learn vocational skills. Yemi committed to spending about half of her one-month trip alongside these closely-knit women. “They were like their own family,” she says. Together with them, she made banana fiber bags and pottery creations, which are being sold to raise funds for the local school and a future medical clinic.
This experience has added a whole new dimension to her broader world perspective. Yemi boasts of her new friends’ “amazing talents,” and she emphasizes that she wants volunteering to be integrated in future trips.
Performing service work is not a new concept to Yemi, who has experience at Feed My Starving Children, food shelves, and other nonprofits. Although she realizes that helping others puts the focus on them, she can’t help but think of how it benefits her as well. “It’s touching to see so many people affected. They are so happy, but I feel like I’m the happiest.” Volunteering, she adds, “makes you a better person.”
And if “better” people make the world a “good place,” then Yemi’s vision is certainly taking shape.
Integrity is defined as “adherence to moral and ethical principles.” Integrity defines theology teacher Alison Frank. Seemingly reluctant to say “no” to requests for assistance, Alison is involved as an advisor and volunteer in endless ways not only at BSM, but at her church and with other organizations. Yet, what makes Alison stand out is not how much she does, but how she does these acts of service.
|Alison (center) chaperoning Red Knights at the
National Catholic Youth Conference.
With confidence and security, Alison simply aims to genuinely be who she was created to be. She’s honest and sincere about her values and beliefs. She’s not shy about expressing her well-thought-out opinions, but also eagerly listens to opposing viewpoints with respect. Mirroring the Lasallian charism, Alison models compassion, accountability and empathy. She says of her students, “I want them to be people who have honesty, who have character, and who care about the bigger questions in life.” “Alison’s like a big sister to our students,” says vice president of faith formation Holly Hoey Germann. By being true to herself and allowing students to grow into the person God intends them to be, she intentionally helps those around her to better themselves. In turn, her students and peers value her commitment to her morals and hold her in high esteem.
Alison’s commitment also relates directly to Catholic education. She is currently in Notre Dame’s ACE Leadership Program, earning her M.A. in educational administration. She explains, “I have a strong sense that my life—in its entirety—will be given to Catholic education.” She adds, “Being a person of prayer, a person of integrity and a leader with transparency is important to me.”
Whether Alison is asked to lead a BSM group at a March for Life in Washington, D.C., or simply lead a prayer in front of a group, she humbly responds to needs. She recognizes that God has given her gifts worth sharing, and she dodges praise. She does not expect recognition (but we want to give her some anyway). Helping is just what she does. It’s who she is: a true servant leader.
Lauren & Michelle Doyle
According to Lauren and Michelle Doyle’s mom, this has been the “summer of service” for the Doyle family, with each family member being asked to serve a minimum of six hours each week volunteering. “That’s been no big deal,” agree these Class of 2013 twins, who have filled the past few months with a wide variety of volunteer experiences.
|Lauren (back row, 2nd from left) and Michelle (3rd row from
front, 2nd from right) were part of a group of volunteer
leaders at Friendship Ventures.
For Lauren, going on BSM’s mission trip to the Dominican Republic was a wonderful sequel to her first mission trip with her church, two years ago to Colorado. She also spent time helping at Jones Harrison and interacting with children at her church’s Vacation Bible School program. Both she and Michelle have spent at least one week with individuals with disabilities at Camp Friendship, ushered at Stages Theatre, dished up food at People Serving People and corresponded with two sponsored children through World Wide Village. Michelle has also been part of the Love In Deed Program at her church, allowing her to sign up for assorted service opportunities. Earlier this year, she and her mom implemented a PROP Drop campaign, publicizing a pick-up schedule to neighbors, and collecting their donations to bring to PROP. And these are just the recent volunteer experiences for the girls, who also juggle numerous Red Knight extracurriculars.
“I feel lucky to have the opportunity to help locally and globally,” says Lauren, explaining that what makes volunteering especially meaningful for her is “seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces.” Michelle concurs, adding, “Knowing that I’m making a difference makes me happy.”
Service work doesn’t take on a competitive nature between Lauren and Michelle. Rather than thinking about keeping each other accountable, they prefer to simply encourage each other, and have been inspired by each other’s actions. Michelle says of Lauren, “When she’s volunteering, she’s not afraid to be who she is.” Michelle, herself, confesses that she thrives on organizing. Lauren sees that advantage, saying, Michelle “sees the smaller things that need to be done and asks ‘What are we missing?’”
The Doyle sisters know that volunteering will remain a constant in their lives, and they challenge others to “just go find something,” and “keep an open mind.” As Michelle sums up, volunteering “keeps your heart in the right place.”
And that’s a benefit any time of year.
In the summer, BSM is obviously much quieter. Even this fall, one piece of school spirit will be absent. Peggy Renier, who recently graduated, has made a lasting impact on our school community. She oozes Red Knight pride, but perhaps more importantly, she reflects BSM’s commitment to service in all aspects of her life.
|Peggy with one of her young friends at NPH-Mexico.|
During her high school days, she was involved in a wide range of activities, through which she participated in service work. She was behind the scenes— setting up the labyrinth, preparing for Masses, helping teachers (wanting to be a teacher herself someday), and she was in front of the crowd—emceeing a Catholic Schools Week program, serving as a Link Crew leader and more. She remembers going through her own freshman orientation thinking that the upperclassmen were pretty silly. But she said that once she got her shot as a Link Crew leader, “You want to be that crazy person for the freshmen.”
It’s clear that this fun, kind extravert is comfortable with herself. She was also comfortable while at BSM, saying, I’ve just loved getting involved [at BSM] because everyone’s so welcoming and warm and loving.” She adds, referencing the faculty and staff, “I’ve learned who I want to be through seeing who others are.”
Peggy’s volunteering has continued into this summer. She spent part of June attending her third Christ Power service program in north Minneapolis, and she will take her second summer trip in August to help lead a VBS program in Mexico. Reflecting on how the kids she met there during last year’s trip impacted her, she shares, “I felt them giving me the gift, rather than me giving it to them.”
For Peggy, being a servant leader definitely comes down to relationship-building. Asked about her preference of service work, she responded, “Anything where I have the chance to connect directly with people and get to know them. It’s more important to know who you’re working with than what you’re doing.”
A similar sentiment holds true as she prepares to leave the close proximity of BSM, she says, “I’m going to miss the people.”
In turn, the school will miss Peggy’s enthusiastic presence next year, but her positive influences will remain.
Ben Grunewald (’12) believes in the domino effect. When he smiles or tells a joke to try to cheer someone up, he hopes they will do the same….and so on, and so forth.
|Ben proved to be a strong leader through track.|
Ben applies that philosophy to many areas of his life, but one that was especially apparent recently was through his role as one of the varsity track and field captains. “I just wanted to make everyone comfortable,” he said, explaining that the junior high and senior high track and field programs had increased interaction this year. Ben made it a point to make sure that younger students did not feel intimidated, and he strove to be a bridge of communication between athletes and coaches. For instance, if a younger athlete would admit to having trouble learning how to use the starting blocks, Ben would not only offer assistance, but would suggest to the coaches that starting blocks could be focused on in an upcoming practice. During meets, Ben intentionally took time to mingle with the younger students, sharing stories about teachers and classes with them. As Ben says, he simply tried to make “a big difference with little acts.”
While this team was the first one that Ben captained, his leadership skills were already strong from his years as a Boy Scout. He earned his Eagle Scout award last fall and enjoyed volunteer opportunities through scouting and other ways. “I just like to help people as much as I can.”
Now that he’s crossed the finish line as a BSM student, Ben leaves the track and field team in capable younger hands, having been a role model to those that will come after him. “I took it to heart to help the program,” says this son of two former track and field athletes.
Whether he’s thinking about dominoes, track, or another activity, Ben’s solid work ethic and compassion for others are always running on high gear.
|Berenice feels strongly about the
need to recycle.
The bottom line when it comes to servant leadership is wanting to make a difference. Junior Berenice Meraz gets it.
Last year, Berenice was selected to participate in St. John University’s Youth Theology Ministry (YTM) program, a two-week camp that focuses on faith and service work. Inspired by the experience, she applied and was accepted again this year, and now has the opportunity to take on more of a leadership role.
Leading as a volunteer is a concept that is familiar to Berenice. Ascension school and parish know her well. She volunteers there in various ways, most regularly as a five-year Sunday school teacher, and tries to help “whenever they need me.”
For this new endeavor for YTM, Berenice rallied a couple of friends and is beginning an environmental project for North Minneapolis, targeting neighbors and Ascension families. “We want to make our area more environmentally friendly,” she says. “We gotta do this!”
She has scheduled three sessions for people in North Minneapolis to attend and learn more about efforts to recycle. She recruited Mr. Reiff, BSM’s environmental science teacher, to give a presentation, and some of the time will be hands-on, allowing Berenice to lead participants in a neighborhood clean-up. When asked why she is choosing to share her knowledge of recycling and environmental efforts with the community, Berenice stated, “I just want to make a change.”
The bottom line with Berenice Meraz as a servant leader is that she is making a difference…one that will help a community shine.
According to senior Hannah Morin, “It’s amazing how much of a connection you can build with some people in just a week.”
|Hannah, with some of her friends in the
The connections Hannah has made have been while she has visited Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH) orphanage in both Guatemala (in 2008, 2011 and 2012) and the Dominican Republic (in 2011). Her first experience was during a trip with family members, and later trips were with her fellow Red Knights. The kids are what keep her going back. “I want to be forever friends with them, having them a part of my life and being a part of theirs.”
This is a commitment she has taken seriously. She regularly corresponds with several of NPH children, sending them letters and posters of their favorite pop stars. She often mails the items, but is currently compiling a package that a friend of hers will deliver on an upcoming trip.
Her Latin American experiences have cultivated a love of the Spanish culture in Hannah, who plans to major in Spanish at Creighton. Although she has a good command of the language already and is in AP Spanish, she admits, “I learn new things every time I go [to Latin America].” She is enhancing her cultural learning by attending a Spanish Mass and trying salsa dancing. While talking about this aspect of her life, she was even sporting a colorful Guatemalan headband, having had no notice of the interview.
She says that her goal is “to give back to the Domincan and Guatemala at least once a year.” She adds, “I strive to live a life of simplicity.” That’s something that NPH children can relate to. And for many of them, Hannah Morin is clearly someone they can relate to as well.
“I have an idea,” said Abby Rosengren, at the end of her sixth grade year. She asked her mom if she could start a one-week arts and crafts summer camp for kindergarten and first grade girls. That year, in 2007, Camp Rosy was launched at the Rosengren home. Now a junior, Abby is gearing up for her sixth year of leading this camp for students from her former grade school, Holy Name of Jesus.
|Abby, with one of her campers.|
This year, however, she is putting a twist on the camp activities. While the group of 12-20 girls will still create art projects together under Abby’s guidance and play games, a service component is being introduced. “I want to expose them to volunteering,” says Abby. During the week, the girls will make items, such as tie blankets, that can donated to a nonprofit organization. Abby is even considering inviting some of the camp alums who are now in fifth grade go with her to offer the donated items. Her brothers, Ben (’12) and Will (’16), are willing helpers at Camp Rosy, but for this part of their family dynamics, Abby takes the lead.
An active volunteer with Red Knight Volunteer Corps, Abby recognizes the blessings in her life and commits to helping in “whatever small ways I can.” Wanting to share this philosophy with her campers, she strives to act as a role model for the younger girls.
A few years ago, Abby’s grandpa—her own volunteering role model—suggested that she and her mom join him at Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners. The three of them began volunteering at the food shelf. Abby continued serving there for her Christian Service class commitment and still makes this activity a regular part of her life.
She embodies a key trait of successful servant leaders in that those around them will likely also become involved in helping others. If Abby continues to sprout rosy ideas, even more people will blossom into fellow servant leaders.
Mikey Koller & Spencer Shaver
It’s not too often that football players take on the role of cheerleaders. But in a way that’s exactly what juniors Mikey Koller and Spencer Shaver have been doing lately…at least in relation to service work.
|Mikey & Spencer, helping at an Ascension
School Peace Dinner.
Mikey and Spencer have been chosen as captains for the 2013 varsity football team. When they learned of these roles, Coach Hanks talked to them about trying to increase the amount of service work that the team does together. It turns out that they were the right people to approach. “We would have been doing service anyway,” says Mikey, and both boys agree that involving their fellow football players is an added bonus. Spencer explains that off-season bonding, especially that which can be done outside the weight room, is important to team dynamics.
Earlier this winter, Mikey and Spencer arranged for the team to help with the pond hockey tournament that benefitted Jack Jablonski. About 50 football players in grades 9-12 showed up to assist with the hockey event, logging approximately five hours each that day, for a total of about 250 hours.
The two boys then learned of a service opportunity at Ascension School through RKVC. They coordinated a date and committed 15 football players to help serve food, lead activities and interact with children. Katie Chock, the volunteer coordinator for the event, said afterward of the group, “They jumped right in and helped wherever needed. They made the night a success!”
That plan of attack is important to Mikey and Spencer. “We want to help where there is actually a need in the community,” says Mikey. “We’re just blessed to be able to give back,” adds Spencer.
The boys are brainstorming future projects for the team, one of which will include helping at a golf benefit this spring. And if encouraging their teammates to join them in volunteering means offering rides to underclassmen and cheering on their peers in the process, then that’s just what they’ll do.
The BSM Student Body
Following sophomore Jack Jablonski’s hockey injury, theology teacher Zach Zeckser said that BSM students “have been praying like I’ve never seen them pray before.”
That power of prayer has already been felt in miraculous ways. However, it wasn’t just about praying…or white-outs, or wristband sales, or pond hockey tournaments, or special cheers. While each of those actions and so many other responses have been instrumental in showing Red Knight support, it’s the overall embodiment of unity and compassion that makes it obvious that the student body, as a whole, exemplifies servant leadership. As Katie Kramer (’02) wrote, “Your enthusiasm, innovative ideas and overwhelming show of solidarity is more inspirational than I can possibly articulate.” She added, “It is clear through your actions that you are Red Knights—mature . . . and socially responsible young adults who inspire and affect change.”
|(Photo courtesy of Knight Errant)|
Some servant leader characteristics include foresight, empathy, listening and vision. By the ways that students have reached out to the other team’s hockey player involved in the incident, supported each other and made a pledge to Jack to be with him through the long haul, our Red Knights understand and embody these concepts. The student newspaper staff printed, “On behalf of the BSM student body, we promise continued support. Even when all of the media attention has died down, you can count on your Red Knights to always remember how much strength and positivity you have shown, to continue to support you through your recovery, and to always keep you in our prayers.”
As his peers recognize, Jack has demonstrated his own inspiring leadership skills from his hospital bed. Through his resolve and simple joy through suffering, he is handling this challenging situation with determination and grace.
That’s not surprising. As the student newspaper writers shared with him, “You are one of our own, you are a part of our community.”
A community, indeed….one that leans on its faith, maintains priorities and acts as Christ inspires us—as servant leaders.
So where is the best place on earth? For senior Emily Boole, it’s Lake Geneva Christian Center in Alexandria, Minnesota. She and her family were introduced to this camp through a family at her church, and Emily has worked with young girls there for the past two summers. She plans to return again this year. But she’ll have to coordinate her schedule so that she can also nanny, return to the Girl Scout camp where she serves as a camp counselor, and visit her other volunteering sites, such as Shalom Home .
|Emily, with some of her summer campers.|
Emily is a busy volunteer, but one who is truly committed to the role. “Making time to volunteer is a priority.” She mentions the gratifying feelings that are tied to self-sacrificing. Not only can Emily achieve 100 volunteer hours for the President’s Service Award within a year, but sometimes within a semester.
She sees the trend continuing. “I can’t picture myself not volunteering. It’s just me. It feels natural.” Emily recalls that while she was a camper at Lake Geneva in sixth grade, she “was called to be a missionary to Zambia.” While praying for a family member with cancer, she explains, “God just gave me the thoughts” to go there. “I don’t know when I’ll go there or what I’ll do there, but it’s all been kind of piecing together.”
She says that she is considering a career in nursing and is looking at Bethel College. At Bethel, during the month of January, various educational travel programs are offered as part of “J Term.” Emily has learned that Bethel’s nursing program is going to offer a trip to volunteer in Zambia, doing medical work. “Isn’t that just God right there?” she asks.
Emily might be adding a new favorite place to her list soon.
Often students recognized as servant leaders are highlighted due to impressive volunteer work with a charitable organization(s). While senior Ben Zeman is engaged in those same types of activities, his true servant leader characteristics especially shine through in his Red Knight extracurriculars.
|Ben in You Can't Take it With You|
A leader in the drama, choir and speech programs, Ben has uniquely blended his giving nature with his passions for each of these involvements. His choir teachers refer to his “quiet, diplomatic leadership,” explaining that he uses his singing talents not to show off to other students, but to be a role model. When the group traveled to the National Catholic Youth Conference this year, Ben was the only veteran student from BSM, so he helped prepare the other students for what to expect.
He has held lead roles in multiple musicals and plays over the years. Still, as described by Mrs. Stockhaus, Ben “helps less gifted or facile singers to learn their parts, even when he would not be singing those parts in performance.”
Offering assistance can be a slippery slope, but Ben recognizes the challenges that can arise from potential power struggles. “I try not to be overbearing…but simply make myself helpful and available. I try to be an example, doing my best and helping others to do their best.” He is currently doing this by student directing the junior high play, already knowing some of the cast members who came to Drama Camp, where he volunteered.
Also a speech captain, Ben notes that having a specific leadership title sets a certain standard of expectations. “Now I have to live up to it,” he says.
Regardless of his assigned role, Ben makes the best of every situation. He finds a way to balance his interests with servant leadership in an effective way—one that has earned the admiration and respect of those around him. According to Mrs. Stockhaus, “Ben is simply, wonderfully Ben.”
Each BSM eighth grader is required to give a speech to the junior high student body. Speech topics typically revolve around favorite television shows, a significant person in the speaker’s life, vacation spots, preferred products and famous sports stars…just to name a few.
|Sophie (left), with her sister, Grace.|
Sophie Johnson chose a different track. She decided to share information on World Race, a Christian service opportunity that has participants traveling to 11 different countries during 11 months to experience various volunteer situations. Not only was her topic impressive, but a teacher also praised her delivery.
There’s a good reason for that. Sophie is passionate about serving others and keeps her young mind open to exploring all the possibilities that volunteering can offer. “No matter what you’re doing, it’s all good. It’s all helping.”
And Sophie does a lot of good. She has participated in Holy Name’s Summer Stretch Program, is a third-annual Salvation Army bell ringer, and looks forward to repeating a visit to Simpson Shelter again this winter. Engaged in their church, Holy Name of Jesus, Sophie’s family hosted two visitors from NPH’s Mexican orphanage last year. Sophie still writes to her international friends, saying, “Even though we didn’t speak the same language, we connected so much.”
To all of these experiences, Sophie brings a sophisticated perspective for her age. For example, she has already uncovered the secret of building rapport with elderly individuals: “Ask them about their grandkids.”
Looking into her future of volunteering, Sophie hopes to participate in World Race sometime after she reaches the eligible age of 21. She applies her faith to her service work and shares, “I feel really blessed. [Volunteering] is a way to give back and show that I’m thankful.”
Isaac, Davis and Peyton Melin
Isaac describes Peyton as “excited,” Peyton describes Davis as “dedicated,” and Davis describes Isaac as “hard working.” When others are asked about any of these three brothers, the words “kind,” “respectful” and “leader” are repeated descriptors.
|L-R: Davis, Peyton and Isaac Melin|
Isaac (’12), Davis (’14) and Peyton (’17) Melin are Red Knights who were individually suggested as servant leaders. The fact that they are from the same family suggests that there is a common denominator to their views on volunteering. “Our parents are really good role models,” explains Davis.
While Mom and Dad have led by example to the boys and their younger sister (Grace), Isaac, Davis and Peyton have incorporated service work into their own lives and with their own initiative—both independently and collectively. For instance, Isaac has worked with disabled individuals at Hammer, Davis has served at a fundraising gala, and Peyton has cleaned cages at a humane society. They also share many other experiences, ranging from working at food shelves to caring for kids in their church’s nursery. All three are in RKVC, and it was through this organization that Peyton learned about a Walk for Diabetes earlier this fall. The whole family got on board with the idea and spent the morning together.
Service is so important to the Melin family that BSM’s reputation for service work was a key element when they were choosing a school. Isaac says that their family strives to “give back to the community, work hard and go through with things that you’ve promised.” BSM has proven to be a great match for them.
The boys admit that they can be competitive in general, at times, but if they challenge one another through volunteer activities, it is in a healthy way. “We don’t do it for the competition. It’s not about that. It’s more about the volunteer work itself, but it’s a bonus if you’re beating your siblings in hours,” Isaac teasingly explains. Easy for him to say. As Davis says about Isaac, “When someone asks him to do something, he’ll go above and beyond.” Davis and Peyton bring similar attitudes to their service work. Each of these boys responds with an eager “Sure, I can do that” type of approach to any request.
They each have their sights set on achieving a President’s Service Award this year. Davis also has hopes of going on a mission trip someday, and Peyton will join Isaac and Davis serving at Interfaith Outreach when he’s old enough. When asked about what his future of volunteer experiences looks like, Peyton smiled. “It’s gonna be good.”
An inscription on diversity coordinator Lidibette Rosado-Guzman’s office wall reads, “We must become the change we want to see. – Mahatma Ghandi.”
|Mrs. Guzman, with a friend she met
on one of her BSM trips.
Mrs. Guzman can relate. For years, she has introduced hundreds of Red Knight students to cultures in all corners of the globe, through trips to Guatemala, India, Spain, Thailand, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Peru, Egypt and Costa Rica. She has implemented more comprehensive bullying policies at school and has eliminated a homeroom group for the PRO (Peers Respecting Others) organization, allowing for better school-wide involvement. She recruits teachers to be mentors to students who may be struggling. And she does all of this with one main goal in mind. “I have a passion to make life better for others,” she explains. Why? “Because someone did it for me…I truly believe that education opens the door for opportunities.”
Mrs. Guzman has been in her current position for three years, having previously been a Spanish teacher (which she also juggles to a smaller extent now) at BSM. Regardless of her official role, embracing the qualities of servant leadership is a natural way of life for her.
Granted, being a diversity coordinator warrants a certain amount of implied service. What she gives to this calling, however, goes beyond the scope of expectations. Offering help to students with varying needs, she often finds herself securing resources (lunch money, calculators, home Internet connectivity, etc.) and rides to and from school for students, sometimes on a moment’s notice. She is not just a professional example of a servant, but a living one, embracing the concept through her curious nature and giving heart.
Outside of BSM, she donates her time as a translator, interpreting at other school’s conferences and for our own families. Once she even drove one of our families to a doctor’s appointment to help the parents understand a medical diagnosis. She is a member of the board at Risen Christ School and has been active in various community service projects.
At BSM, she recognizes the challenges that her position brings, but counters, “Our students will be the next leaders…I do it for the kids.”
It’s easy to see that Mrs. Guzman—and by extension, the students she serves—strives to be change in the world.
A smile can brighten someone’s day. Caroline Kupchella (’14) is helping bring beautiful smiles to other’s faces through her volunteer efforts with Smile Network International, a non-profit organization that provides impoverished children with free cleft lip and/or palate surgery.
|Caroline meets a young surgery
patient while in Kenya.
Caroline learned of Smile Network through a family friend, and she and her dad went on a mission trip to Kenya with the organization this past summer. The trip was her Christmas present for last year, and when asked about how she felt with that idea, she responded. “Oh, I was good! I was so happy. I’ve always wanted to go on a mission trip.”
While in Kenya, Caroline assisted with medical records, served as a translator and simply waited with and talked to the families prior to surgery. “I just loved working with the kids,” she said. “Just playing with them is helping them.”
Despite the fun, inspiring moments, Caroline also experienced heartbreak, when children needed to be turned away for surgery, either because of medical conditions or lack of funding. “It felt like we let them down,” she shared, explaining that many families had walked for days to get to the hospital during Smile’s time there. “I want to make sure that we have spots for them.”
So Caroline enlisted BSM’s help. This year’s homecoming Common Basket donations benefitted Smile Network, collecting $3,358 for the organization. Even before Caroline took her trip to Africa, she began working with BSM leaders to find a way to benefit Smile. For her, what benefits another person’s face touches her heart.
She not only puts her heart into Smile Network efforts but other volunteer work as well. “I am the number one super fan for RKVC,” she says, noting that she checks the volunteer opportunity board at least once each day. She especially enjoys spending time reading to children at Mary’s Place and also serves on the board for the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota as a youth leader for girlsBest.
Describing service work as “calming,” she sums up her volunteering by stating, “It just feels like what I’m supposed to do.” When she travels again to Africa…whether it’s with her next mission trip with Smile or as an ESL teacher someday, the returning smiles will reinforce that philosophy even more for her.
Some may think that Marielle Arostegui (’13) is shy. But ask her about her service work in the Domincan Republic and she is anything but quiet in responding.
|Marielle (top, center) with some of her students
in the Domincan Republic.
This past summer, Marielle accompanied a friend’s family to the city of Cabarete in the Dominican Republic, where she volunteered at a summer program that is part of The DREAM Project. From mid-June to mid-July, she was responsible for a group of 23 students, ages 12-16, who were enrolled in the summer school. As the youngest volunteer in the program, Marielle lead class activities herself at times, and at other times, she assisted other leaders. Whatever the circumstance, she was engaging with others. “I’m a people person,” she says. “I….LOVE…TO….VOLUNTEER,” she emphasizes dramatically. “But mostly with people.”
Reflecting on this experience, Marielle talks about the gratifying moments of seeing the students come to understand something, the hugs she received from those she helped, and simply seeing them smile. “I have a new respect for teachers,” she admits, and she gained a profound respect for the level of passion that her students showed for learning.
When told that she was going to be featured as a servant leader, Marielle humbly responded with, “I am so excited that more people will get to learn about DREAM, and the amazing things they are doing.”
Marielle remains active in BSM’s Red Knight Volunteer Corps and as a volunteer at her church, and she is already making plans to return next summer to the Domincan Republic to repeat this powerful service experience. Speaking of this past trip, she heartily says, “I wouldn’t trade it at all.”
To learn more about the DREAM project, visit http://dominicandream.org/.
Last fall, as a freshman, Angela Charley committed to making a 2-hour visit to the PropShop as a volunteer for a theology class requirement. Since then, she has given the PropShop dozens—if not hundreds—of hours of her time, having built such a connection to the PropShop and the idea of serving others that it now feels like second nature. “It doesn’t feel like volunteering,” says Angela. “I just started loving what I’d be doing and who I’d be helping.”
|Angela with fellow volunteer Ace|
The Prop Shop in Eden Prairie is nonprofit shop for clothes, household items, books and furniture. Proceeds go to support PropShop programs and local families in need.
And boy, do they love Angela there! Volunteer coordinator Alicia Yost has “all good things” to say about her, commenting that Angela is “helpful, talented, nice and willing to do anything to help.” Alicia also shares, “When she first started [volunteering with us], I thought she was older, because she’s so mature…When I found out that she’s just a freshman, I said to her ‘Awesome! We get you for four years.’”
Angela often shares volunteering duties with 92-year-old Ace. Angela gives a big smile when talking about their Saturday interactions, saying “We’ve become really good friends.” When Angela’s not on duty, the older woman is known to ask “Where is our dear Angela?”
“Dear Angela” will likely not be away from the PropShop for any length of time. “I just feel a part of it,” she says, and when talking about the organization, she frequently uses the word “we.” “It just feels like family.”
Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, offers a unique program called the Breitbach Catholic Thinkers and Leaders Program. According to the college’s website, the program is for “participants who are concerned about social justice and dedicated to service. Above all, we are looking for students who understand the call of Jesus, ‘What has been given as gift, give as gift.’”
Recent BSM graduate Patrick Krieger fits that description to a “T.” He will begin at Loras this fall, having been selected into this program. Acceptance includes a January Term in Rome during junior year, a generous financial scholarship, unique classes, monthly dinners, and more.
While Patrick was active in RKVC and church volunteer activities during high school, his time as a football captain defined his leadership skills in a way he never imagined.
Early in his junior year, playing varsity football, Patrick suffered a neck injury that would end his participation in contact sports. But Patrick wasn’t ready to give up football that easily. He sat out, cheering on his team throughout the remainder of the season, then was named a captain for the next year. He recalls, “I was not sure how to react to this at first, but I eventually accepted that my leadership role had shifted away from the field.”
He explains, “Before my injury, I believed that the best way for me to be a leader was to have others follow my lead.” Then things changed. “God blessed me with athletic talent, and He did not take this away from me with my injury, only changed how I used it.”
Patrick became a good listener for his teammates. “They taught me how to be a true Catholic leader.” Together my teammates and I….expanded the messages of the Gospel…into everyday life.”
As a living example of the Gospel, Patrick is a role model for others when it comes to servant leadership. “It just feels like it’s the right thing for me to be doing—to be giving back and sharing what talents I have with others.”
Camp Friendship, a camp in Annandale for people with developmental disabilities, has a strong partnership with BSM. Red Knights volunteer regularly for the camp, and this summer, one fewer volunteer will be needed. Junior Emma Eldred has been offered a job at Camp Friendship, based on her exceptional volunteering there during the past year.
|Emma with one of her Camp Friendship friends.|
“It’s a place where I’m just so content,” says Emma of Camp Friendship. She spent two weeks volunteering there last summer and another one during Christmas break. “I loved it so much by the end of last summer that I knew I wanted to spend next summer there.” Emma will be serving as a conselor-in-training, beginning in June, and says that she “could not be more excited.”
Another person who is excited about Emma’s commitment is Sarah Pouliot, who works at St. David’s Center for Child and Family Development, where Emma also volunteers. She says of Emma, “We have been really impressed with her energy, enthusiasm, and giving nature. In fact, one of our participants really wanted her to come on a day that she wasn’t scheduled because there was a school dance that we were all going to, and she wanted Emma to join us. So even though Emma already had plans for that day she made it work and came to the dance with us!” Earlier this year this organization honored Emma as a monthly featured volunteer.
When at St. David’s, Emma appreciates the challenge of dealing with normal reactions of those with whom she is working. She explains that at Camp Friendship, “campers are often on their best behavior,” but at St. David’s, she is “hanging out with them for their everyday life.”
Volunteering is a self-less endeavor for Emma. For example, “I love fishing,” admits Emma, “but I love helping someone else go fishing even more. That is rewarding. Being able to help others live their daily lives to the fullest makes me so happy!”
They might have stab marks or burns. One even showed up with glass in his foot. These scenarios describe some of the preschoolers that freshman Rory Taylor encounters when he volunteers at Baby’s Space in Minneapolis’ Phillips Neighborhood.
|Rory, with a couple of his preschool-aged friends.|
Rory was introduced to the organization by a coach of his and spends at least one or two afternoons there each week. He explains that he felt a “certain calling” to this place that offers child development programs to American Indians like himself. Although Baby’s Space has received media attention for its achievements, the personal stories can sometimes challenge one’s emotions. As Rory says, “These kids are dealing with situations at age 3 and 4 that adults often aren’t able to handle.”
That’s why Rory’s listening ear and kind heart are so valuable. He interacts with usually about a dozen children when volunteering and says, “Helping them obtain a better life—like what I’ve had—is what motivates and drives me to help them develop.”
Rory has no younger siblings himself (but has a 25-year-old sister) and had not done much volunteer work before getting involved at Baby’s Space. But once he started, he admits, “I just couldn’t stop.” He sees the progress that the children make, feels the community sense at the facility and knows that he needs to continue making this opportunity a priority in his life.
Rory is also captaining a Relay for Life team this spring, with two races under his belt so far. He served in WEB, and is active in Red Carpet Club, lacrosse and football. He recently took part in a Day of Silence to benefit the Invisible Children organization, but his volunteer efforts are anything but silent. Intending to keep Baby’s Space in his life—even with some full-day shifts this summer—he shares, “I just want to help them be regular 3 year olds.”
This is the time of year when our thoughts turn to spring and we honor Earth Day. What a perfect time of year to also honor someone whose servant leader qualities are firmly rooted—someone who makes every day an Earth Day—Mark Lex. Mark is not only a science teacher at BSM, but also the advisor for both the Environmental Club and Envirothon. Over the past few years, he has helped lead the charge to make BSM a greener school through composting and recycling efforts.
|Mark poses with a red-tailed hawk during
a presentation to BSM students.
But Mark’s volunteer experiences branch out beyond environmental causes. A certified EMT, he has instructed dozens of other BSM staffers over the years in CPR, first aid and AED use. He offers his time to be available at school events, and his calm manner and expertise are the perfect answer to a call for help. For over 20 years, Mark has also helped at the Twin Cities Marathon. Each year, he takes groups of BSM students to volunteer in the medical tent, helping the injured and ill runners. In 2000, the Red Cross named Mark a Volunteer of the Year.
Richardson Nature Center, where Mark helps raptors about two to three times per month, honored him with this same type of recognition. Due to his strong connection with the organization, he is able to give raptor presentations every spring to BSM students.
Photography is another way that Mark gives of his time and skills. While fans are cheering for their favorite Red Knight athletes, Mark is capturing their kicks, serves, turns, passes and pins from behind a lens. He provides nearly all of the sport action photos that are posted on the BSM website, catching all of the action as it happens.
While seasons change, Mark’s passion for helping others remains constant. By his unassuming example, BSM students are given a perfect example for growing their own servant leader characteristics.
|Afua, participating in a rally at the Capitol.|
If a societal issue isn’t directly concerning you, then you shouldn’t have to worry about it, right? Junior Afua Paintsil disagrees. “I still try to worry about it,” she says. Whether the issue relates to poverty, equality, pro-life beliefs, chemical-free lifestyles, or other causes for which Afua has felt passion, she refuses to remain passive.
Getting involved “takes courage,” she admits. For her, it is not only the courage to take action, but also the way people allow themselves to view the concern. “You might observe it, but you really don’t want to process it.”
Afua processes and then she acts. Involved in Students for Human Life, Link Crew, Student Leadership Forum, PRO, Knightlife and Students Against Cancer, along with orchestra, speech and drama, she has her hands full. Yet, she keeps volunteer experiences as a high priority, considering them “equally important” to school work. “That’s my drive, just to help. I don’t need an incentive.” Instead, she finds intrinsic value in serving other, whether it is at the local library, at her church, or as a participant on marches and trips that bring about awareness of particular causes.
In fact, awareness seems to be a key to Afua’s strength as a servant leader. She perceives a need, thoughtfully considers options and implements a plan. One teacher describes her as “open-minded, humble and kind,” saying that Afua “attracts others to her because of her confident and inclusive nature. She has a genuine desire to cultivate good.”
Sometimes “worry” can be a good thing.
For many students, it takes a class or project or gentle prodding from a parent to get them involved in volunteering. For Mikaela Wolf it was an intuitive response.
|Mikaela, planting lilacs as part of an RKVC activity.|
This self-motivated, responsible eighth grader volunteers any chance she can get. Through Red Knight Volunteer Corps (RKVC), Mikaela has taken part in community service projects, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. On her own, she has served at her church and at a preschool, and has even held more than one of her own birthday parties at Feed My Starving Children, helping out others on her special occasion.
She also has a special affinity for the Miracles of Mitch Foundation, which seeks to help families of children battling cancer in Minnesota. Although she had no personal connection to the foundation, she was drawn to it and has participated in the mini-triathlon fundraisers. BSM service coordinator Lisa Lenhart-Murphy was impressed to see that Mikaela had even nominated this foundation for a Common Basket collection recipient, since it is uncommon for junior high students to take the initiative to make a nomination.
Although Mikaela is involved in swimming and basketball, junior high RKVC advisor Susie Hinnendael believes that Mikaela’s “activity of choice is service.” As Mikaela, herself, states, “I like knowing I can help people, even if it’s just a little bit.”
And it’s her little bit that’s making a big difference.
|Doris, at one of the many BSM
events that she supports.
She’s up and hard at work before most, she remembers everyone’s name, and she cares deeply about BSM, her home-away-from-home for the past 48 years. Doris Christensen was a servant leader before the term was coined. Her smiling face, listening ear, and kind heart have brightened the lives of thousands in the Benilde and BSM community.
Most of her Red Knight career was spent in the kitchen. She knew each student, supervised many of them, and graciously accepted their money (or word for later payment). For the past several years, she has been part of the maintenance staff, taking an early morning shift. As other faculty and staff members arrive, Doris is one of the first people to greet them, being sure to ask about their family and latest life events. As one of her co-workers explains, “It’s her small acts of big love that make such a difference.”
In November, Doris suffered an injury that has kept her away from BSM since then. While Red Knights have always appreciated her efforts and presence, her absence is strongly felt. Despite being in her mid-80s, Doris, herself, is anxious to return to BSM to resume her duties. “I can hardly wait,” she says. BSM’s my family, and I’ve gotten close to a lot of people.”
Considering her everyday approach to community building, the BSM community is hoping to see Doris approaching the building again very soon. Because as a servant leader, Doris leads with love.
We often hear the phrase “It’s a matter of perspective.” For junior Dan Lundberg, that phrase has taken on new meaning in recent months.
|Dan, taking a break from his research
at Gillette Children's Hospital
Dan had been involved in various volunteer endeavors prior to this fall, but he had never worked with people with disabilities. So he decided to get involved at Courage Center, saying he was “drawn there to expand my horizons.”
Around that same time, Dan was also asked by a friend’s dad, who works at Gillette Children’s Hospital, to assist with a medical research project. Dan chose to focus his research on Duchene Muscular Dystrophy, and soon realized that many of the people with whom he interacts at Courage Center are battling this same condition. It occurred to him that his work at Gillette was like doing research on these very people he now knew.
Suddenly, he was looking at Muscular Dystrophy “from two different angles.” He explains that while volunteering at Gillette, it can be “easy to forget about the people.” So putting faces behind the research and statistics, while also gaining a clearer understanding of the challenges these people face—from a medical standpoint, has deepened Dan’s compassion and increased his passion for working with people with disabilities.
His research will be submitted for publication soon. His involvement at Courage Center will continue. And his new perspective will remain a part of him forever.
Kelsey Brown & Martha Hogan
What would be the first thing that students would want to do on a weekday when there is no school? Go to school, anyway, right? Well, maybe not in most cases, but that is exactly what current seniors Kelsey Brown and Martha Hogan chose to do during a day of parent-teacher conferences last year. Although they weren’t memorizing the periodic chart or solving math problems, they were visiting some of their best friends—the Little Knights.
Kelsey and Martha first became involved with Little Knights, BSM’s child care center for faculty and staff, in Fall 2009 through their Christian Service class. Since then, they have volunteered—together and separately—whenever possible. Veronica Campion, the director for Little Knights, explains that she would never expect students to come and help during a non-school day, but—despite surprised reactions from peers and family members—Kelsey and Martha insisted that they wanted to do just that.
|Martha, left, and Kelsey spend time with some of the Little Knights.|
Why? “Because the kids are just so cute,” says Kelsey. “They’re adorable, and it’s just so much fun.” Martha adds that working with the children is a “stress reliever. It’s a time when we can be weird and it’s normal.” They laugh in agreement.
Both girls are involved in other volunteer activities, including Jones Harrison Residence (Martha), Helping Paws (Kelsey) and others, but their enthusiasm for continuing to regularly help at Little Knights is obvious. Martha admits, “I didn’t know how attached I would become.”
They gush with praise about the children, and the feeling is mutual. Coy grins from the little boys and cheers of “Marfa” and “Keyshey” often greet the girls. When asked about them, Veronica praises their responsibility and adds, “They’re simply the most outstanding high school students I’ve ever worked with.”
Attitude is everything for junior Julia Weber. As a person, and specifically as a volunteer, her enthusiasm is not only obvious, but genuine. Julia is a member of Red Knight Volunteer Corps, and when she sees a new opportunity posted, she says that if it’s something that might interest her at all, “of course I’m gonna go for it.”
|Julia, with some of the faculty member's
children, whom she helped babysit.
In addition to RKVC, she is involved in student council, NHS, Link Crew, Knightlife, Students Against Cancer, tennis and lacrosse. One teacher refers to her as “World Wide Weber,” referencing her variety of activities. But it’s not the quantity of extracurriculars that Julia is after as much as the range of experiences. She likes to stretch herself, but she admits that she is often most pulled toward volunteering with kids. A recent event allowed her and other students to babysit for some faculty and staff members’ children. Beaming, Julia says, “It was like Heaven,” and adds, “It was nice to give the teachers the break they need.”
She is not one for breaks herself though. She explains that when she has long volunteer babysitting shifts, her mom will offer to give her a breather. Julia happily declines, since she loves kids so much. She knows that when it comes time for her to choose a volunteer experience for her Christian service class, “it will be with kids for sure.”
Feed My Starving Children is another favorite volunteer pastime for her—something she has done for years with both family and friends. She has also served as a camp counselor for a Castaway Retreat through her church and with other St. Therese parish events. Her amount of service hours for 2010 will qualify her for a President’s Service Award.
She says of volunteering, “It just makes me feel good…just doing the little things.”
Abbi Baker and Amanda Anderson
The life of a teenage girl can be complicated. Some BSM girls are involved in a group, however, that helps them deal with these challenging years, thanks to two BSM faculty members, Abbi Baker and Amanda Anderson.
|Abbi (front-far right) and Amanda (back, second from right) pose with the
Reviving Ophelia group, in the midst of carving pumpkins to donate as
centerpieces for a PRISM charity event.
About seven years ago, a then senior girl shared the concept of a Reviving Ophelia group that she had experienced at a prior school before moving to the Twin Cities. Abbi and Amanda listened and learned more about the concept and then took action, forming the group.
Reviving Ophelia—named after a book by the same title—is open to BSM high school girls and currently has approximately 20 active participants. A junior high group is also being explored. It’s a support group of sorts, which allows girls to socialize, engage in service projects and share thoughts, concerns and dreams. As Amanda says, “It’s a good way [for me and Abbi] to get to know the girls on a different level.”
While all of BSM’s advisers and coaches are valued, Abbi and Amanda are a rare breed in that all of the time they give to Reviving Ophelia is done voluntarily. Their personalities and job responsibilities complement each other in such a way that not only is the group’s environment effective in a logistical way, but also in an emotional way. Describing the meetings, they say that it’s such a “safe place.” Abbi adds, “I grew up in an all-girls school and am a huge supporter of girls groups. I remember what that involvement did for me, and I hope this group provides that same positive experience.”
Based on the feelings of empowerment and self-esteem that seem to emanate from participants, Reviving Ophelia—with Abbi and Amanda's leadership—is helping to make life just a little bit easier for many Red Knight girls.
|Sarah, serving at North Side Life Care Center, where she and classmate Emily Kruse established a new partnership for BSM’s Students for Human Life group.|
Sarah Silvestri’s planner is a work of art. This junior takes being organized to a whole new level…but she needs to. Among her Red Knight involvements are Student Council, Red Knight Volunteer Corps, Students for Human Life, Link Crew, National Honor Society, Students Against Cancer, Knightlife, Eucharistic Ministry, Students for Fair Labor, tennis and lacrosse. “I have a hard time choosing just one thing,” Sarah admits, smiling. She also serves on the Archidiocesan Youth Advisory Board, has attended a leadership camp, and her past two mission trips will perhaps foreshadow a similar experience when she goes on BSM’s Rwanda trip next summer.
It would be easy to assume that Sarah is stressed out, but if she is, she sure doesn’t show it. “It’s just about being balanced,” she says. “I schedule everything out and plan ahead.”
One might also suspect that Sarah would find it difficult to fully invest herself in each of her activities. Again, no. Advisers of her involvements praise her commitment, and Sarah, herself, explains, “I don’t want to join something and then cheat it.”
A closer look at her particular involvements shows that Sarah especially values those activities that have a direct benefit to others. She intentionally spends her time this way and knows that volunteering will remain strong for her, whether it is being engaged in similar college organizations or spending time in a third world country someday. “Social justice has always been part of who I am.”
That part, combined with her exceptional planning and organizational skills, has helped her perfect the art of serving others.
John Marinelli is pretty comfortable around
Sometimes it takes a bit of courage to volunteer. John Marinelli (’11) didn’t necessary need courage, but by volunteering, he was exposed to “courage.” Courage Center—that is, where he began serving.
At Courage Center, John served as a physical therapy aid—a great fit for him since he is interested in a medical career. But as he explains, “If I had to, I would do paper work even…anything I can do to help.”
As Kurt Wiger, Courage Center’s Director of Volunteers, says, “John exhibited a strong work ethic and a maturity beyond his age. He is a young man with outstanding character.”
That’s obvious when talking with John, who insisted that many other BSM students would be more worthy of recognition for their service work. Yet, John’s volunteerism has made a difference, not only to Courage Center, but to him, as well. “I felt I was doing something worthwhile and not just going through the motions.”
He plans to continue going through those motions this year with Courage Center, and Kurt couldn’t be more pleased. He shares, “Many of the clients John worked with recently had a life altering illness or tragic event or injury. The greatest attribute that John brought to his volunteering was his compassion and instant respect for our clients.”
While John ended up being a blessing to many Courage Center patients, they in turn, showed him their courage. And his respect and admiration is clear.
Camp Friendship Summer Volunteers
“They were the best volunteers I had all summer,” Samantha Funk, from Friendship Ventures, said of the 10 BSM students who volunteered at Camp Friendship. Friendship Ventures is a non-profit agency that creates unique educational, recreational and social opportunities for people of all ages with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.
|Back, l-r: Courtney Burke, Taylor Kenyon, Ryan Philbin
Middle: Elizabeth Goulet, Natalie Walsh, Emily Parsons,
Front: Kate Hinkens, Emma Eldred, Theresa Cameron
After hearing Samantha, Friendship Ventures’ Program Manager of Volunteers, share a presentation at school, senior Courtney Burke, juniors Emma Eldred, Elizabeth Goulet, Morgan Grahek, Kate Hinkens, Taylor Kenyon, Emily Parsons, Ryan Philbin, and Natalie Walsh and sophomore Theresa Cameron, signed up as volunteers for Camp Friendship. Working with people with disabilities was a new experience for many of the students. Courtney said, “It takes you out of your comfort zone,” and Emily added, “It changes your view on things.”
Red Knights volunteered during various summer weeks, most logging 70 hours of volunteer time, and two—Emma and Elizabeth—doubling that total with two weeks of service.
Samantha said of the BSM group, “Every student I had from Benilde-St. Margaret’s this summer was exceptional. Their positive outlooks on life really brightened the experience for everyone around them. Each student went above and beyond when working with our campers – they took initiative, interacted with campers without being asked, and treated everyone at camp with respect and dignity. . . Their work in our Youth Leadership Program was fantastic – the group games and challenges we completed were very advanced, as all of the students from BSM were already very strong leaders. It was a fantastic group of students.”
And it may not be the last that Samantha sees of them. Ryan said, “I definitely want to go back.” When asked how many others were planning to return also, every person had an arm in the air.
Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
That seems to be a verse that explains Carmen Aguirre’s life very well. This senior engages in volunteer work not to gain attention and not to collect hours for her resume, but to serve the less fortunate.
|Carmen (back, far right) and other students at
the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine
practiced making sutures on bananas.
In June, Carmen took part in the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine, held for two weeks in Atlanta. Selected students must demonstrate academic excellence, high leadership potential and an interest in the medical career. Along with over 400 peers from around the country, Carmen learned what a possible career as a doctor might entail. For her, the interest is not about status or salary, but as she describes, “It feels to me like that’s my way of giving back.” As she envisions her future, she believes, “It’s really important that I do something that can change my community.”
One way that she is fulfilling that mission now is through volunteer work at North Memorial Hospital. She assists with patient discharge and specifically chose North Memorial for its clientele base. Expressing a particular desire to someday serve patients that don’t have insurance, Carmen felt that this setting would expose her to those with lower economic resources and to more immigrants.
Since her dad is from Mexico, Carmen has a strong affiliation with the Spanish-speaking population. So much so that she and her dad, along with another family, began a Spanish-speaking worship service last winter at their church, Calvary Lutheran. As the service has continued to grow, Carmen has taken on more responsibilities, now also leading a Sunday school component for the children.
Fluent in Spanish, Carmen would certainly be capable of translating the previously-mentioned Bible verse, but more importantly, she lives it.
Jim Picard is a well respected mathematics teacher at BSM. He is a Link Crew (orientation) leader that new students admire. He’s a Chess Club advisor and bowling advisor, and he holds an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction Emphasis in Critical Pedagogy. He sounds pretty serious, right? Granted, he can be, when serving in a professional capacity, but he is also a self-proclaimed kid at heart.
|Jim (front), rockin' at a Trinity Youth Camp campfire|
That youth-like trait comes in handy, as Jim frequently offers his time and talents to volunteering with students. This summer, he helped run Trinity Youth Camp, sponsored by the Diocese of Fargo. For several years, Jim has dedicated his summers to making four separate camp sessions a reality for kids. His specific role is fluid and can include anything from counselor trainer to recreation director, singer to “gopher.” “I fill in anywhere that is needed,” he says.
Jim, along with wife Dori, has also been a “filler” for Special Olympics, Relay for Life, Feed My Starving Children, the MS150, Families Moving Forward, BSM’s Guatemala mission trip, class retreats, and St. Edward’s church in Bloomington. Jim says of volunteering, “We are all given abilities and opportunities to use them. The key is grasping those opportunities and running with them. We don’t always have to feel like we would be the best possible person for a job, but we do have the obligation to do our best with what we have been given.”
He also shares a common theme for his life. “As we like to say in Link Crew, ‘go big.’ If you do your best, good things happen.” Thanks to Jim, plenty of good is happening, and it’s keeping him feeling young in the process.
Sammi and Megan Johnson
Birthdays are often symbolized by parties with cake and presents. When twins Sammi and Megan Johnson celebrated their 15th birthday this spring, they had a celebration, but the presents weren’t for them.
|Sammi (left) and Megan, with fellow party planner Michael Nann|
Sammi and Megan live near Interfaith Outreach and inquired about doing service work there. They learned that the organization has a birthday shelf for parents needing assistance in offering birthday presents to their children. Sammi explains that not only was it hard for her and Megan to realize that kids might have to go through a birthday without presents, but they also recognized the pain that parents must feel through that experience.
So an idea came to mind. Together with classmate Michael Nanne, they held a birthday party at their house, entertaining about 60 Red Knight friends and collecting presents for Interfaith’s Outreach cause. When the girls brought over $500 in cash and gift cards and approximately 50 gifts for teenagers to the organization, Sammi explains that the receptionist “was beside herself” with joy for the students’ generosity. The girls were excited themselves, and Sammi says, “It makes you feel good when you’re helping someone.”
Often engaging in service projects together, Sammi and Megan were active Red Knight Volunteer Corps members during the freshman year, helping at Feed My Starving Children, Special Olympics, the Twin Cities Marathon and more. Megan expresses their strong desire to act as servants in this world, stating, “If we want to change something, we have to do something.”
The twins plan to volunteer at both Camp Friendship and BSM’s Fun in the Son camp this summer and hope to go on mission trips after a couple more of their own birthdays have passed. In the meantime, many other area children will be able to consider their birthday much happier than it otherwise might have been.
“I’m kind of a softie,” admits incoming senior Jack Tift, reflecting on his caring personality. He may only be “kind of” a softie, but he’s really a servant leader, demonstrating concepts of awareness, stewardship and conceptualization through his actions.
|Jack, with hands full of hygiene products|
As an eighth grader, Jack wondered if leftover complementary hygiene products, collected from hotel stays, could be put to good use. He also knew that BSM had already started an annual tradition of visiting a Guatemala orphanage. “I put the pieces together.”
For the past three years, Jack has led efforts for students to donate approximately 900 items per year to the orphanage. This summer, Jack will be seeing his results first-hand, as he, himself, goes on the Guatemala mission trip. “I’ve been waiting for [this] for a long time,” he shares. “I’ll finally get to see how thousands of products get put to good use.”
Jack will be put to good use while there too, and he’s okay with that. “I love doing manual labor,” he says in all seriousness. “If I’m getting something done to help people, it’s fulfilling. I enjoy the sense of accomplishment.”
Another “accomplishment” that Jack has enjoyed has been volunteering for Trees for Toys, when for the past three years, Jack has helped families secure donated Christmas trees to their cars, as part of a Toys for Tots program at a Coldwell Banker site. He also “loves” helping at the NHS blood drive, has built various set props for BSM drama productions and was involved in the pajama drive earlier this year. Plus, he hopes that one day the Peace Corps will have a spot for a softie like him.
|Emily (far left), with friends Alexa Dietz and Jordynn
Poferl, at the American Diabetes Association Walk
“It feels good to help people,” says Emily Yates.
If that’s the case, Emily feels good quite often. Active in the junior high’s Red Knight Volunteers Corps (RKVC) program, this soft-spoken eighth grader kept her eyes open all year long for new volunteer opportunities. Each time a new one was posted for the group, she responded. Junior high RKVC adviser Susie Hinnendael explained that it seemed like “Emily volunteered for everything.” Susie explains that when she saw Emily’s name on the Treasure Hunt volunteer list, she asked her to clarify which shift she would like to work. To Susie’s surprise, Emily replied that she was willing to be there the whole day.
Her generous offering of time was also given for helping at St. Therese parish’s Oktoberfest, working at a children’s table at an American Diabetes Association walk and offering assistance at BSM’s Career Knight. She is currently trying to organize her upcoming birthday celebration to include a volunteer experience for her and her friends at Feed My Starving Children.
Emily says of volunteering, “It’s a fun thing to do.” She credits her mom, in particular, for instilling in her that “it’s a good idea to try to give back when you can.” Still, as Susie explains, Emily takes responsibility her own service work, with self-driven initiative. “I think something that sets her apart is that she takes volunteering into her own hands,” says Susie.
So when many others think of their birthday as a time to get things, Emily hopes to also be giving. By doing so, she’ll be helping others—in addition to herself— to feel good.
Kate Leahy’s commitment to service developed in the mid 90s during her own BSM years. It was then that Kate really began to realize “what a great local community we live in.”
As a junior, Kate (’96), along with classmate Kate Culp Kerfoot, organized a benefit concert at school, collecting money for St. Joseph’s
|Kate is anxious to help at Relay for Life this year|
Home for Children. Now as the Admissions Director for BSM, Kate has brought that Red Knight commitment to service back to the halls of BSM, modeling compassion and humility to students and adults alike.
Her generosity leads her to a variety of service activities. She has participated in Homeless Connect (a Twin Cities day of service for homeless people); served on Richmond College’s alumni committee, also representing them at a recent BSM College Fair; traveled with the Red Knights on a mission trip to Guatemala; just to name a few. Soon, she will be lacing up her sneakers for Relay for Life, just like she did for both the American Heart Association walk that she was part of last year and Grandma’s Marathon in 2008, when she ran to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
Kate has learned the secret to really feel a passionate connection to volunteering. Time and time again, she matches her skill set to activities that interest her and can benefit from her experience and knowledge. “I have people skills and I like to be social,” explains Kate, with her familiar smile. “I choose activities that let me use those skills.”
Chaperoning school retreats is a favorite volunteer endeavor of hers. “I have a chance to get to know the students better to find out what they’re interested in and to witness their faith formation and spiritual journey.”
Of helping others, in general, Kate says, “It’s gratifying to take a walk in someone else’s shoes and see if you can make a difference in their lives.”
Allie, Kasey & Tara Fan
When asked if they are competitive, Allie (’10), Kasey (’11) and Tara (’13) Fan agree with a resounding “Yes!” “Oh my gosh, yes,” adds Kasey, smiling. They definitely challenge each other, but as servant leaders, they channel that competition in a healthy way, each striving to meet the needs of others.
The sisters explain that they have grown up in a very giving family environment, and their desire to serve has been instilled in them from their parents, Al and Sue, who both work for non-profit organizations. Volunteering is a passion that the girls share, yet they take uniquely different approaches to it.
|Left-right: Allie, Tara and Kasey Fan|
Allie has been incredibly involved with Red Knight activities and projects (RKVC, NHS, Link Crew, Knightlife and others). However, she feels most strongly connected to the work she does for her church, Christ the King. As a Peer Minister there, she helps with the teen worship service, finding it “fun to give input to make it a fuller experience for others.”
Kasey, who has her eyes set on a medical career, takes joy in her volunteer work at Children’s Hospital, where she can be found at the second floor welcome desk, providing information and greeting visitors. Tutoring, counseling at a summer worship camp, NHS, Link Crew, Knightlife, church Peer Ministry and other activities also benefit from her commitment.
With a special love for children, Tara finds herself regularly offering her babysitting services, often for teachers. She has also assisted at volleyball and basketball camps for junior high students, led children on a scavenger hunt during a BSM alumni family event, and helped grade school teachers prepare their classrooms for the fall. She too, is active in her church’s Peer Ministry, participates in RKVC and plans on following in both of her big sisters’ footsteps by going on BSM’s Guatemala mission trip some day.
“It just seems so natural,” they say of wanting to volunteer—something that is simply part of who they are. And that is why these sisters make “Fan-tastic” servant leaders!
Often, after Red Knights complete service projects, they receive thanks. Junior Matt Perpich got a job offer.
|Matt, holding a bagged rice meal, like
that which is sent to starving children
Matt began volunteering at Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) for his Christian Service class project and made quite an impression on staff members. He was approached by one of them who said they would like him to consider working there sometime, leading volunteers. Matt may choose to continue working his usual summer job at a golf course (noting that spending time outdoors is a passion of his). However, an offer will remain on the table, and he plans to at least keep volunteering at FMSC, having set a goal of achieving 100 service hours between that and other volunteer endeavors.
Matt was genuinely surprised by the job offer and says of his FMSC time, “I feel like I’m making a small difference.”
Other differences he makes come in the form of helping at the St. Therese carnival, as a manager for the boys’ basketball team and at the Twin Cities Marathon, where adult organizers, impressed with Matt’s helpfulness, requested him to help at future events.
Applauding Matt’s helpful nature, BSM service coordinator Lisa Lenhart-Murphy says, “It’s never about him. As a servant leader, he fits the bill. He is an unassuming role model who is so well-respected by others.”
Generous with his positive attitude, Matt says, “I always try to have a smile on my face and am willing to work.”
That’s an offer that those around him are happy to accept.
It seems like it would take a very special person to be able to inspire an archbishop. Meet Jen Deglmann.
At BSM’s Ash Wednesday Mass, Jen shared her story of being an abandoned, premature baby in the Ukraine, prior to her adoption at age 15 months. Thinking of her own difficult beginning, she easily connected to a class presentation given last year by 1980 BSM graduate Bob Solis, who founded an orphanage in South Africa. “His cause really resonated with me. I feel called to do this…to show these children that they are loved,” says Jen.
Stirred to respond compassionately, Jen jumped into action. She approached BSM faculty members to see if a Common Basket collection could be planned for this organization. That collection was taken on Ash Wednesday, with Jen offering a testimony on the importance of supporting this cause. She emphasized to her fellow students that “God has a plan for all of us,” just as Jen’s mom, dad and Bob—“heroes” in Jen’s eyes, “took it upon themselves to fulfill God’s plan.” Encouraging prayers and financial offerings for the collection, Jen explained, “We do these things not as charity, but as a contribution to another person’s life.” While Jen spoke, former archbishop Harry Flynn presided, and he shared with Jen afterward how much her testimony had moved him.
But Jen’s work isn’t done. Wanting to form a more personal bond with these young children, she has organized a Spring Break trip, along with four other senior girls and two easily convinced faculty chaperones, to visit Bob’s orphanage, Open Arms. Together, the group will present Open Arms with BSM’s Common Basket donation, as well as toys and special items.
Although the media has begun to cover to this story, Jen is quick to clarify that the attention must be focused on Open Arms and the children in care there. Soon, they too, will see for themselves what a special servant leader Jen Deglmann is.
Ironically, a skill that junior Diana Hurley’s grandma taught her five years ago is something that Diana now teaches, and shares with, other grandmas. With knitting needles in tow, Diana visits Minnetonka’s Sunrise assisted living center every Monday afternoon to knit and visit with residents there. “It’s so interesting to hear the stories they have to tell, of how their life compares to mine now,” says Diana. Describing it as if it were any typically teenage activity, she adds, “We just hang out.”
|Diana knits with one of her Sunrise friends|
That “hanging out” time is clearly valued by the residents. Sunrise’s activity and volunteer coordinator, Gretchen Omdahl, writes that Diana “is fabulous. She has patience that I have not seen before in a girl of her age. She has handled herself so well in dealing with memory loss, cognitive disabilities, and physical disabilities. She shows up on time and truly gets to the heart of my residents. I feel she has been a gift to my residents. They look forward to her being here and miss her when she is gone!”
Diana’s life is becoming intertwined with the residents, not only emotionally, but in a tangible way as well. Each of the knitters is helping to make squares for an afghan, which will remain at the center for any of the residents to use. And since Diana has blocked off her Mondays through graduation for the purpose of meeting with these new friends of hers, the warmth produced might be quite plentiful.
|Mel, with some of the Treasure Hunt donations|
Anyone who has ever organized a garage sale knows how much work goes into it. While our Parent Association sponsors our annual Treasure Hunt garage sale with the help of many wonderful adult volunteers, one student in particular has also become a key component to the event’s success. Motivated by her mom—a regular Treasure Hunt volunteer, senior Mel Ikola became involved in the project as a seventh grader. Five years later, she is still going strong. Serving as the student coordinator, she has attended virtually every Treasure Hunt meeting with the adult volunteers during her Red Knight years, and has rolled up her sleeves, helping to receive, sort, display, and of course, sell the items. “It’s just so much fun working with all of the different people,” says Mel.
Treasure Hunt is not the only way that Mel offers help to the people and projects she encounters. Last year, she gave numerous hours, volunteering at an assisted living center. An avid musher, Mel even shared a presentation with the residents about her dog sledding adventures. Additionally, she has taught kids in a summer Spanish program, co-chaired hygiene product drives for the Guatemala mission trip and assisted with the labyrinth at school. She admits, “I’m just the type where I put off my own thing if someone needs a hand.”
That’s exactly what makes Mel such a great servant leader. Quietly, and without fanfare, she jumps in wherever needed. What she describes as “random stuff” creates random smiles on those around her, making her a very treasured Red Knight.
Mike “Grillmaster” Geer
Mike shows that he's comfortable in front
Over a year ago, Mike Geer’s Service Leadership class explored options for volunteering in the Twin Cities. One place in particular, House of Charity, piqued his interest. He began volunteering there, and when his semester requirements were completed, he says, “I just kept going back.” For more than a year now, Mike has dedicated 4-6 hours nearly every Saturday morning at this soup kitchen. “I’d rather be helping there than sleeping in,” he admits.
And help he does. When other volunteers often prefer to serve meals, Mike can be found washing dishes or organizing the messy storage room. However, neither those efforts nor his own financial support and fundraising initiatives for House of Charity represent Mike’s true claim to fame.
When the regular cook was out with an injury one day, Mike took hold of the apron strings and began an egg-frying frenzy. It wasn’t long before he had mastered Denver omelets and French toast, but he is especially known for making a mean grilled cheese. With a sly smirk, he states that at House of Charity, “They know me as the grillmaster.”
Mike doesn’t expect a call from the Food Network anytime soon, though. “I don’t think that three dishes will get me on a cooking channel.” Plus, feeling that he works better under pressure, he prefers to share his culinary craft with crowds of hundreds rather than with familiar friends and family.
He’ll keep his spatula handy if he decides to stay in the Twin Cities for college, knowing that he will continue his weekend pastime. And if he whisks away for college, he will resume his grilling duties during breaks. After all, he says, “It’s the only place I’m allowed to cook.”
Pay It Forward Participants
|Front (l-r): Ally Rhoades, Sidney Pilarski, Sarah Kopp, Danon Briggs,
Morgan Rogers; Back (l-r): Catherine Ruekert, Michael Gerten,
Kelsey Lanz, Claire Hayden, Matthew Frank, Tahiel Jimenez; Not showing:
While many students were enjoying a well-deserved, relaxing break over MEA weekend, 12 Red Knights loaded a bus and headed to Iowa, Illinois and Missouri for BSM’s second annual Pay It Forward trip. BSM students included Myles Anderson, Danon Briggs, Matthew Frank, Michael Gerten, Claire Hayden, Kelsey Lanz, Tahiel Jimenez, Sarah Kopp, Sidney Pilarski, Ally Rhoades, Morgan Rogers and Catherine Ruekert.
During the five-day Pay It Forward bus tour, students not only visited two college campuses, but also rolled up their sleeves and took part in a variety of service projects. BMS shared a bus with Blaine and Champlin Park students, so the total group of over 40 teenagers and chaperones not only did cleaning and maintenance work at the churches where they stayed, but also did some planting in a St. Louis city park, worked at both a used clothing store and a food shelf in Decorah, Iowa, played Bingo and put on a talent show at a nursing home in Davenport, Iowa, and helped clean up a neighborhood in Litchfield, Illinois. Considering the size and the energy of the group, one of the BSM student leaders, Sarah Kopp says, “What took us three hours would have taken one volunteer at least three weeks. It mattered.”
But was it enjoyable? Sarah exclaims, “I’d do it again in a heartbeat.” She is confident that her fellow travelers would agree that this experience brought a change in perspective toward volunteering. Another student leader, Morgan Rogers, agrees. “Going somewhere else and seeing what that community needs makes you realize what you can do in your own community too.”
Pay It Forward sparked a fire in the group participants to take a closer look at how they can help others more. And that’s what paying it forward is all about.
Think of a student group at BSM that helps others in some way, and junior Francesca Sifferlin is probably a part of it.
|Francesca, during her Jamaica mission trip|
First of all, there is Red Knight Volunteer Corps, which allows over 300 Red Knights to give their time and energy to various individuals and groups around the area. Francesca’s membership in RKVC has also led her to be a part of the newly-formed Student Leadership Forum. This group is made up of several BSM student group leaders, working together to coordinate activities and plans for the school year.
However, Francesca’s extracurricular involvement doesn’t stop there. She is also involved in Knightlife, Students for Fair Labor, the Environmental Club, Link Crew, the Red Carpet Club, Students for Human Life and is a class board member. “I love meeting all of the different people at school, both students and teachers.”
Quiet, but generous, about stewardship, Francesca doesn’t limit her volunteer efforts to BSM activities. A few summers ago, she was the youngest traveler on a church mission trip to Ghana, and in June, another mission trip adventure led her to Jamaica. Then in August, she participated in Notre Dame Vision, a weeklong, faith-based leadership camp, which helped motivate her to continue serving others. “Religion is important to me, and I keep it central in my life,” says Francesca. That philosophy may explain why she also serves as a Eucharistic Minister and a Sunday school teacher at Our Lady of Grace. Additionally, she enjoys stocking food shelves at S.T.E.P. and is constantly seeking new ways to give back to her community. As she states, “It just makes me really happy as a person to do these things.”
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James Cave & Dave Kuntz
Hawaii. Mexico. Europe. These are common vacation destinations, but for James Cave and Dave Kuntz, Rwanda has been on their travel itinerary for the past three summers. They initially visited Rwanda in 2007 as a way to add greater depth to curriculum for a junior high class, titled Genocide and Social Justice. They were so affected by their time in Rwanda, however, that they not only made plans to return, but also continued collection efforts at BSM for supplies to share with several Rwandan groups.
|James & Dave on their recent trip|
During their first visit, they offered several hundred pounds of soccer gear, donated by BSM families and others to Rwandan children. In 2008, James and Dave retraced some of their same steps abroad, bringing more donations with them. One of the beneficiaries of this generosity was a family that opened their home to James and Dave during their travels. The father of this large household, Bosco Habimana, wrote to James, thanking him for the donations, saying, “I appreciate all you do for me and the love that you show me…that makes me feel that I have relatives on the other continent.”
Recently, James and Dave returned from a third trip to Rwanda, this time taking 19 students and a couple of other chaperones with them. Part of the preparation involved lessons in stewardship. By sharing cultural information about Rwanda, James and Dave educated the BSM community about the country’s needs. Beyond some of the regular donations, additional offerings were collected at BSM Masses, through the Common Basket Program, to benefit Rwandan orphanages and families and other organizations.
James and Dave have contributed countless hours to not only directly bringing aid to those in Rwanda, but also modeling to others how important it is to be a servant on the front lines. Responding to why they chose to bring others with them to experience Rwanda, Dave says, “It was important to us that the students meet the people who will benefit from the generosity of the BSM community: the Habimana family, the children at Imbabazi Orphanage, and the children serviced by the Amahoro Integrated Development Program (AIDP).”
One student wrote on the trip blog about distributing donations at an orphanage. “All of the kids were very cute, and were very happy when we delivered them our duffel bag full of children's books.” Another student mentioned the experience of bringing items to Bosco’s family, which includes several adopted orphan children (as a result of the genocide). “The neighborhood was staring in through their window. It was so cute. Everything is amazing,” she wrote.
James and Dave plan to bring another student group to Rwanda in Summer 2011. Through AIDP, it costs $2,400 to build a house for a widow and five orphans (AIDP thinks this is a better approach than having orphanages) and purchase a small piece of land and a goat or two. Dave and James will lead efforts to sponsor the creation of one of these homes. If you are interested in contributing to this or future student trips to Rwanda, please contact the main office.
Being part of a varsity sports team is not only a big time commitment, but also an honor. One Red Knight softball player is determined to not forget where she came from in achieving this accomplishment.
|Katie (in yellow) helps lead camp activities|
A few months ago, senior Katie Collver recognized the need for a peer mentor in the BSM softball program and stepped up to the plate. On a regular basis throughout the season, she offered assistance whenever the lower-level players needed tips or just encouragement. “If I’m not busy,” she says, “I figure I might as well see if they needed help at all.” Whether it was giving advice about catching or hitting, or simply being an enthusiastic fan at games, she considered these other girls’ games as important as her own.
Katie hopes to continue covering many bases with her volunteer efforts. Bound for Augsburg College, she is planning on leading a Daisy Girl Scouts Club while in college and may also sign on with the Big Brother/Big Sister Program. “There’s just something about helping out someone younger than you,” says Katie, remembering how she, herself, used to look up to students that were her current age.
For three summers, Katie has volunteered as a Counselor-in-Training at nearby Girl Scout camps, and this year is being “promoted” to being a paid counselor. Other ways that she has served her community have been by participating in Race for the Cure, the Night Out on the Street and a Make-a-Wish fundraiser. Since her mom works at General Mills, a sponsoring organization for Make-a-Wish, Katie enjoyed donning the Pillsbury Dough Boy outfit for a promotional event. Perhaps a Little League coaching uniform will be something that she also wears proudly some day.
Junior Andy Kalb is becoming known for asking one particular question while volunteering: “What can I do to help?” Whatever the answer is to that question, Andy is more than willing to lend a hand. From serving at soup kitchens to setting up chairs for BSM Masses, no job is too small for him. He’ll do what needs to be done, all the time wearing a smile and working hard.
|Andy, center, enjoys time with fellow
Relay For Life participants.
An agency worker sent an e-mail to BSM earlier this year, complimenting the students who had participated in a Bowling for Books drive. She said of Andy, specifically, “He was very professional and mature and had the most compliments and the most responsibility (he was assigning event participants to bowling lanes and managing the wait list).” Remembering the event himself, Andy says, “I didn’t even feel like I was volunteering; it was just so much fun.”
Other sources of enjoyment for him include volunteering for Mary’s Place, Relay For Life, Special Olympics and more. He helps the BSM admissions office by giving presentations at grade schools, spends time with the Little Knights, leads Knight Life activities, serves as a Link Crew leader and tries “to do an RKVC [Red Knight Volunteer Corps] event every weekend…I always like to keep busy,” he adds. After an experience at Feed My Starving Children, he proposed the opportunity to his Red Knight football coach and is now organizing a group of teammates to go there and serve.
He admits that he especially likes helping children and junior high students, keeping in mind, “I remember thinking high school was the coolest thing.” And luckily, those youngsters have one cool role model in Andy Kalb.
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One of the concepts about service-learning that the BSM faculty conveys to students is that serving others should meet the genuine and authentic needs of theirs. Junior Katie McClurg gets it. While it’s sometimes tempting for volunteers to perform tasks that are comfortable for them, Katie does what needs to be done.
|Katie, helping deliver flowers|
For several years, Katie has taught Sunday school at her church. Interested in the medical field, she also began volunteering at Methodist Hospital in October to complete course requirements for Service Leadership class. “Why not combine the two?” she thought. Eager to encourage her 5-year-old students to make greeting cards for hospital patients, she sought approval for the project from hospital staff members. Although happy to accept the cards, they conveyed to Katie that an immediate need they had was for someone to organize their flower storage room. No problem, thought Katie, remembering the service-learning lesson that “we’re supposed to focus on a real need.” So she set to work organizing the room, and has also been delivering flowers to patients ever since.
As for the cards, her students did implement this continual art project, with nearly 100 to their credit already. “It gets them thinking about helping already at a young age,” Katie says of her students.
Extremely organized and adaptable, Katie also responded to another local request. She and friend Rose Geiwitz are coordinating a Prom dress collection for Elk River High School girls in need of a gown. There days after BSM service coordinator Lisa Lenhart-Murphy received a request from Elk River teacher and BSM graduate Jenna Nilson (’99) of the need for dresses, Katie and Rose approached Mrs. Lenhart-Murphy, wanting (coincidentally) to do a dress drive. The match was made. They advertised the effort at school, and plan to offer dresses, donated by the BSM community, to several girls.
Speaking of why she chooses to get involved in this type of project, Katie says, “Service has always been a part of my life. It’s something that I look forward to doing.” She demonstrates that joy not only at church and at the hospital, but also at Feed My Starving Children, Mary’s Place and on her neighborhood tennis courts, where she regularly gives impromptu lessons to younger children in the area. A mom of one such young player applauds Katie’s efforts, saying that she is a “great role model” for her daughter and a “truly compassionate person.”
|Ellie with a new friend from
her trip to Mexico
“It’s perfect for me,” says sophomore Ellie Jaskowiak of volunteering at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Since September, she has been spending virtually every Saturday morning at Children’s Hospital, interacting with patients. For Ellie, the time there is not fulfilling any school or church obligation; it’s just something she felt she had to do. Interested in a career in medicine and fueled by a love of kids, she brought the idea of volunteering at Children’s Hospital to Mr. Zeckser, who not only encouraged her, but also wrote a recommendation on her behalf. Ellie says that the experience “combines all the things I love.”
Speaking of things she loves: her mom even joins her in this volunteer endeavor. Together, they spend three to four hours each week, assisting on the outpatient floors. One would think that they could visit numerous patients in that amount of time, but Ellie explains that she tries to limit her encounters to one or two patients each week, making sure that she spends quality time with them. Crafts, reading, and coloring are common activities, but she is happy to help with paperwork, when needed too. Sometimes newborn babies with feeding tubes simply need a little cuddling or teenagers need a competitive opponent for a video game. “I honestly enjoy it,” admits Ellie. “If I were in this situation, I would want someone to be there for me. Besides, I get just as much—if not more—out of it.”
She has also volunteered at Feed My Starving Children, Good Will, an urban immersion house in Minneapolis, and at her church, even attending a mission trip to Mexico. However, providing TLC to children in the hospital is an especially perfect fit for her right now.
|Mike, serving as a Eucharistic Minister|
Some of the incoming Red Knights this year were probably looking for one particular familiar face—that of Mike Hansberry. Mike, a senior, has helped out the BSM Admissions Office the past two years by sharing BSM’s story at area grade schools. “That was so much fun!” says Mike of the experiences. His enthusiasm for the school was also evident on a video that he voluntarily helped produce for BSM.
One of two senior peer ministry leaders at BSM’s “Fun in the Son” Christian service camp, last summer, he is open about discussing not only his faith walk with others, but also his teenage years in general. Younger students benefit from his knowledge as he serves as a Link Crew leader, and peers respect his guidance offered through Knightlife and Peer Ministry.
Mike’s volunteer endeavors create a long list, but he is sincere about each opportunity and says of helping others, “It’s just who I am and what I want to be.” He seeks no recognition for his service work, which has become second nature to him. Although busy last fall playing basketball, he often left directly from practice to volunteer at Loaves and Fishes, (logging approximately 50 hours there last year) before returning home to begin homework. Feed My Starving Children and Mary’s Place are other organizations that have received his time.
Especially enjoying his interactions with formative junior high students, he strives to influence them in a positive way. Helping out at Respect Retreats and Courage Retreats, sponsored by Youth Frontiers, Mike finds the events truly enjoyable. And mentioning the next BSM retreat at which he will be volunteering, he says with a huge smile, “I’m super psyched!”
“It is easy to simply donate money, food, clothes, etc.,” junior Arturo Shultz wrote in a Christian Service class paper. “But because of my service, I believe that it is more important to disregard the barriers that separate people and share life with them.”
|Arturo, reading to some of the Little Knights|
Sharing his life and time with others has kept Arturo quite busy, but you’ll never hear him complain about it. As part of his Christian Service class work last semester, Arturo volunteered with the Little Knights day care at school, where he made several new, young friends.
However, his volunteer endeavors didn’t stop there. He also helped out at the Twin Cities Marathon in the medical tent and worked in the warehouse at Bridging, receiving items and processing orders for donated furniture.
Also this year, he participated in the Pay It Forward tour during MEA break, served at his church’s Oktoberfest and at Mary’s Place, where he tutored and assisted with the summer reading program—something he plans to continue doing this summer. He was also chosen as the student speaker to promote the Common Basket Program during Homecoming Mass, where he shared a testimony about sharing time with others.
A Ghana traveler last year, he appreciated the opportunity that this service-learning trip gave him to spend his Spring Break doing something meaningful. “Although I cannot say that I will find the cure for cancer or end world hunger, I can say that if I continue to serve, I can help the world,” says Arturo.
In mid-July, junior Natalie LeSage participated in a mission trip through her church, Most Holy Trinity. Together with her mom and about two dozen others, she traveled to Honduras, where she spent time volunteering in an orphanage that is sponsored by Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (NPH). Upon her return, Natalie felt overwhelmed with the need to continue helping the orphanage. “I just wanted to do something for them,” says Natalie. “They didn’t have a lot, but they’re still so happy…It really put my life in perspective.”
|Natalie, with two of her Honduran friends|
She turned to the Internet, researching various fundraising options. Custom-designed bracelets, similar to the “Live Strong” silicone bracelets, which raise awareness and funds for cancer research, caught her attention. Since Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos translates to “our little brothers and sisters,” Natalie chose this phrase for her bracelets, with a Web site for a supporting organization, Friends of the Orphans (friendsUS.org), listed on them, as well.
Armed with 1,000 green, orange, red and blue bracelets, Natalie is now on a selling mission to raise funds for NPH. She has sold the bracelets at her church, and has given PowerPoint presentations to some BSM classes, making them aware of her cause and decorating a few of the students—at $2 a bracelet, along the way.
Friends of the Orphans has invited her to present at an upcoming meeting, and Natalie’s youth director has agreed to shave his beard upon Natalie reaching a certain selling milestone. Always positive, Natalie is hopeful of selling all of her bracelets, sure to do so while maintaining her high GPA.
She plans to either return to Honduras or to join the Red Knights in going to an NPH orphanage during the annual Guatemala mission trip this summer. A longer-range goal for her includes spending a year volunteering in Central America. Natalie also volunteers as a Side By Side Ministries retreat leader and a teacher’s assistant for Perspectives. However, a big focus for her these days is to sell a whole bunch of bracelets!
Often we recognize servant leaders here at BSM for an amazing volunteer experience. But Fran Roby hasn’t been involved with just one impressive service activity recently. He’s had a variety of them.
During MEA weekend, Fran, a guidance counselor at BSM, was a chaperone for the Pay It Forward trip. Sponsored by the Students Today, Leaders Forever organization, the “Pay It Forward Tour” was a five-day trip, in four cities, involving three service projects and two college tours. BSM sent 15 students, along with Fran, who raved that the trip was “an incredible opportunity for the students to not only do service work, but learn about leadership.”
|Fran working with students at Feed My Starving Children|
In late October, some BSM social studies classes participated in a volunteer endeavor at Feed My Starving Children. When Fran got the call to see if he wanted to help chaperone, he said, “I can do that; sure.”
Several months ago, Fran was involved in Project Homeless Connect, a one-stop shop model for delivering services to people experiencing homelessness. Fran was on hand to accompany people in need to the different resources available to them. He will soon attend another training session to repeat the experience in a couple of months.
To alleviate any excess free time in his life, Fran serves as an ESL tutor at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Minneapolis for two hours every Tuesday evening. Introduced to teaching ESL by his daughters, Katie (‘03) and Bridget (‘06), Fran noticed what the girls had learned and decided that he, too, had an interest in helping in this way. Now, with about a dozen hours of training behind him, he is teaching several students, who are mostly Spanish-speakers. Learning Spanish on the Internet and getting occasional tips from the BSM Spanish teachers help Fran with this responsibility.
ESL teaching is not the only way that Fran collaborates on service experiences with his family members. Daughter Bridget, after befriending a young man from Sudan, began volunteering with the Lost Boys of Sudan organization. Fran soon became involved and has organized an opportunity to bring this gentleman to speak to BSM students later this year, but humbly explains that many other faculty members have helped make arrangements. “I just responded to an e-mail,” says Fran.
Speaking of his volunteer activities, Fran states, “It’s a good feeling knowing you’re taking some part of your time and giving it to others. It doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. This is fun!”
BSM applauds Fran’s efforts…each and every one of them.
This year 9th grader Anna Landis joined the senior high Red Knight Volunteer Corps, but the idea of sharing with others is no new concept for her. Last spring, as an eighth grader, Anna heard about the request made by junior high teachers James Cave and Dave Kuntz for items and monetary donations that they were collecting for a Rwandan family.
|Anna shows her culinary skills|
During the summer of 2007, James and Dave traveled to Rwanda to research the culture of the country for junior high course curriculum. While there, they met and befriended a man named Bosco. Bosco and his wife have eight biological children and have adopted four more who were victims of the genocide that took place in that country. Planning a Summer 2008 return trip, James and Dave hoped to be able to bring some help to Bosco and his family.
Anna took the call for help very seriously. She began to ask relatives and friends if she could provide them with a simple meal—usually soup, bread and cookies, which she prepared in her home, in exchange for a cash donation for Bosco. Less than two weeks…and several empty soup bowls later, Anna, counting matching funds from her parents as well, had accumulated approximately $600. She presented the donation to James and Dave at her junior high graduation, surprising them. In all, James and Dave received nearly $3,000 and 250 pounds of clothes, shoes and other items for Bosco. So overwhelmed with the outpouring of support, they distributed a portion of the proceeds to an orphanage in Rwanda as well.
When asked why she decided to initiate this fundraising effort, Anna said, “I felt like it was just the right thing to do. Instead of just asking for money, I wanted to do something too. You get so much more that way. I enjoyed it so much!” Anna plans to continue her fundraising efforts to be able to send more donations to Rwanda next summer, when James and Dave will lead a trip there.
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Katie McDonald & Nicole Rasmussen
This past summer, two BSM faculty members, Spanish teacher Katie McDonald and freshman dean Nicole Rasmussen, led a mission trip to Guatemala. Katie and Nicole’s time away from home was more than two weeks in late June, during which, they welcomed two different Red Knight student groups, each with over 20 students, to an orphanage in Guatemala. Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH) in San Andres, Guatemala, is home to nearly 400 children, and as Nicole stated, upon the Minnesotans’ arrival, “We became part of the family.”
|Nicole (l) and Katie (r), pictured with their Guatemalan
friend, Yoli, whom they continue to sponsor.
The Red Knights made the most of their time with the children, playing soccer, volleyball and other games; dancing with them; and simply talking and connecting with them. While the children attended school during the day, the BSM group involved themselves in service projects, building a seating area in a hill for an outdoor stadium and painting a school.
While certainly all of those who participated in the Guatemala trip are servant leaders in their own right, the leadership and compassion that Katie and Nicole brought to their roles was remarkable. This was Katie’s third year and Nicole’s second year as trip leaders for this experience, and this year, they were at the site over twice as long as other group participants, eagerly engaging in all aspects of the trip experience.
However, regardless of how much the BSM group helped NPH, Nicole states, “They give you more than you can possibly give them.” Katie agrees, saying, “You think you’re going to change their life, but they change yours.”
Both Katie and Nicole feel their lives have been impacted dramatically by not only the Guatemala trip, but also by all of the service work in which they take part. They are clear role models for the BSM community, sometimes taking leftover food from BSM social events and distributing it to homeless people in Minneapolis. Also, Nicole is training her dog to be approved to visit residents in nursing homes to offer them companionship and comfort.
Katie and Nicole stress the profound appreciation they gained for other cultures, by the hospitality that was modeled by the Guatemalans. Whether it’s in the United States, where they realize there are also overwhelming needs, or by visiting other countries, these two BSM teachers feel extremely rewarded and humbled by their own ability to be involved in service work. “It’s my responsibility as a Christian to use my resources and gifts to help others,” says Katie.
It was through a Service Leadership class project during the first semester of her junior year when Gabrielle Mgeni whet her appetite for volunteering at Minneapolis-based House of Charity. House of Charity’s four areas of service include providing needy people with meals, housing, chemical dependency treatment and training in computer literacy. Initially, Gabi helped with a clothing drive for the organization, but after she later began working in the Food Centre, her efforts really began to heat up.
|Gabi working at the Food Centre|
The Food Centre regularly feeds nearly 300-350 people each day, but an unreliable oven made that task extremely difficult. Learning about the burned out oven from Food Services Director Michael Bennett, Gabi decided to lead a fundraiser for a new one. “The fact that she took it upon herself to do that is amazing,” says Michael.
Gabi began the plan by calling suppliers and researching ovens. She presented Michael with some options, who explains that “she managed to come up with a price that was nearly $1,700 cheaper than what we had.”
Gabi’s next step was to send out e-mails to family and friends, asking for donations for this cause. After about a month of fundraising, Gabi had exceeded her goal and arranged for payment and delivery of a new gas convection oven.
Michael says, “The oven that we had prior to this one would either undercook or burn the products. Now we have this brand new piece of equipment that allows us to cook evenly and to even know exactly what time to start cooking.”
With excess money from the campaign, Gabi is arranging for the purchase of a new ice machine for the Food Centre as well. She continues to volunteer at the Food Centre, where the new oven is getting rave reviews.
Combining ingredients of compassion and ambition, Gabi Mgeni clearly demonstrates the concept of being a servant leader.
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When an elderly woman didn’t know where else to look for assistance with shoveling her driveway, she called BSM. Realizing that BSM staff member Mark Snell lived very close to this woman, service-learning coordinator Lisa Lenhart-Murphy asked him if he would be interested in helping her on an as-needed basis. “Without hesitation, he said ‘yes,’” explains Lisa, who, knowing Mark well, was not at all surprised.
As his fellow faculty and staff members clearly recognize, Mark is the type of person who is willing to lend a helping hand, regardless of thanks, pay, attention or convenience. The Staff of the Year Award recipient in 2003, Mark is on the maintenance staff at BSM, but has played a number of other roles since joining the Red Knight ranks in the early 90s. He has coached cross country, basketball, baseball, football, and track and field, and been the junior high athletic director, the strength and speed training coordinator, the basketball tournament director, the transportation coordinator, the sophomore class advisor, and a substitute teacher.
He welcomed this opportunity to shovel for a neighbor in need and states, “I think giving back to the community is a big thing. It’s huge. I think everybody should give back, just because of how it makes you feel.” Mark is currently also volunteering as a coach for an AAU basketball team and has been an active volunteer for S.T.E.P., a nearby food shelf.
Mark’s neighbor, who is disabled and lives alone, is very grateful for the help. She needs a quick response to the snow so that her driveway and sidewalks are accessible, and Mark never disappoints. When he knows that he will be out of town or unavailable, he even arranges for a substitute shoveler, just in case it snows.
Although he has put away the shovel for now, he will make sure it’s ready to go when the snow returns. “I’ll definitely continue helping her out again next winter. It’s just what you do,” he says, smiling.
Meredith Montana & Emily Moore
Prom can be a very special event in a high school student’s life. It can also be a very expensive event. Meredith Montana and Emily Moore understand both of these concepts first-hand, so when Emily read an article last year about Operation Glass Slipper, she decided to get involved with the organization for her Christian Service class project.
Meredith & Emily show off a couple of the
As stated on its Web site, “Operation Glass Slipper is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing prom gowns and accessories at no charge to high school girls in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area whose financial circumstances make it impossible for them to purchase prom apparel.”
Meredith quickly joined Emily in collecting prom dresses and accessories from the BSM community last year. “People are so generous,” says Emily, and Meredith explains that often, people just have dresses that they will likely not ever where again in their closet. “Why not give them to someone who needs them?” she suggests.
Operation Glass Slipper was so successful at BSM last year, that the two girls wanted—now without the incentive of class credit—to repeat the efforts this year. As Emily states, “It was really fun, so we decided to do it again.”
They spent numerous days after school accepting donations. Then, once the items were collected, they delivered them to the Mall of America, where an Open House was held for girls to shop. Over the course of the two donation drives, Meredith and Emily collected approximately 150 dresses. Emily also volunteered at the shopping event, where last year’s dresses were offered. (This year’s dresses will be available next year.)
As Emily sums up, “It’s a great way to give back what you’ve been blessed with.” And there are about 150 Twin Cities girls who are blessed by the time and efforts of Meredith and Emily.
|Patrick, posing with the two carts that he secured
As Jessica Kelly, an employee from PRISM (People Responding in Social Ministry), explains, a lot of volunteers ask what they can do to help. BSM senior Patrick Bakken is different. Patrick, who had previously volunteered with PRISM even before being assigned to do a service project for his Service Leadership class at BSM, wanted to take his volunteering one step further. Jessica says that Patrick “was always taking initiative and finding ways on his own to help.” In regard to his class project, that help came in the form of shopping carts for this community-funded social service agency.
PRISM, an agency that BSM’s service-learning program works with on a regular basis, provides families in need with food, financial assistance, transportation and other services in times of financial hardships. While volunteering there, Patrick noticed that the shopping carts, which were used to transport food from the warehouse to clients’ vehicles were in bad shape. That was enough to set his wheels in motion.
Patrick found out from some area grocery stores where shopping carts can be purchased. Then, he pushed the idea to his grandfather, whose foundation was willing to cover the cost for two carts, at $230 each...some assembly required. Patrick ordered them, picked them up about an hour-and-a-half away, put them together, and brought them to PRISM. As Jessica states, the carts have been “fabulous,” and Patrick is “amazing.” Patrick’s story is just one example of how Service Leadership students often view “leadership” just as seriously as “service.”
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