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April 15, 2004Print Article

La Salle University and San Miguel Middle School Students Team Up for Feeling of Accomplishment
College students enjoy gifts (in the form of money), an "A" on an exam (without studying), and an unexpected snow day (to cancel classes).

But for some La Salle University students, it is enjoyable to feel accomplished when acting in accordance with the vision of educator St. John Baptist de La Salle, the founder of the order of Christian Brothers who started La Salle University.

These students are part of La Sallian Youth Network of Collegiates (LYNC), a group that advocates children's rights and promotes voluntary service.

Every Wednesday afternoon, LYNC members drive in La Salle University vans to tutor at San Miguel School, a free Catholic middle school for 7th and 8th grade boys operated by the Christian Brothers in a poverty-stricken neighborhood in Camden, New Jersey.

“The school reaches out to underprivileged youth, exactly what one of the first La Sallian schools did in France,” says Rob Peach, founder of La Salle’s LYNC chapter. “The boys are provided with the necessary tools and discipline to build their self-confidence while enhancing their ability to learn. I am inspired by the work being done there, and I wanted to be part of it.”

Peach, a junior at La Salle, decided to start a LYNC chapter in the fall of 2002, when he thought his University should have a youth group similar to the one he was part of at Calvert Hall College in Baltimore, Maryland.

"I went to a La Sallian youth conference in Canada and was surrounded by a vibrant spirit for service. I was motivated to start a group at La Salle to express the La Sallian mission," says Peach. About 15 to 20 La Salle students are involved in LYNC activities.

On this particular Wednesday, as the five LYNC tutors and San Miguel students meet, there is a feeling of excitement. As Peach walks in their classroom, some of the boys try to catch a “high-five” off him while others use the energy they have saved all day to holler, “What’s up, Mr. Peach?”

San Miguel is not equipped with the latest in teaching technology. However, the most basic tools achieve success during these tutor sessions: undivided attention, motivation, and old-fashioned schoolbooks. (more)

When the La Salle tutors leave San Miguel, it is obvious the sense of accomplishment is two-sided.

"Many of the students want to do their homework at home but it’s difficult to focus because they are easily distracted,” says Brother Joseph Mahon, F.S.C., a counselor at San Miguel. “When they have someone helping them, a lot is accomplished. Sometimes it is hard to motivate the boys to work on subjects they are weak at because they are socially embarrassed."

The La Salle tutors have been successful despite some of the San Miguel students' initial hesitations. "What pleases me is that the boys now understand learning,” says Bro. Mahon. “They can differentiate between days they need assistance from a tutor and days when they feel confident enough to handle assignments on their own. There is a new recognition for study skills."

When school ends at 4 p.m., the San Miguel boys stay for an hour of "recreation time" before going home. That’s when LYNC members tutor the boys.

“The parents are extremely appreciative for the individual attention their children receive when tutored and for the role models that the boys are in contact with,” says Mahon, “Some of these boys never knew anyone who went to college so they are curious, and they ask their tutors questions to find out more."

The La Salle students talk on their ride home about how each of their students has progressed, and what goals have already been set for the next tutor session, any parent’s dream.

Aaron Spence, a freshman member of LYNC who is a graduate of Philadelphia’s West Catholic High School, was part of a service group there that also tutored at San Miguel.

"I joined LYNC immediately because it was the best activity I was a part of in high school and because the Christian Brothers at West Catholic were role models for me. I want to continue carrying out their mission," says Spence.

The LYNC tutors are not all Education majors -- there's a mix of Computer Science, Psychology, Nursing, and other majors among the group.

Kaitlyn Reidy, a nursing major, says, "I volunteered to tutor at San Miguel one week in place of doing my hospital clinical hours, but now I am addicted to these spirited and thankful boys. After tutoring, I leave excited with a new sense of accomplishment."