This summer, I spent one week at the Lasallian Youth Summer Assembly at La Salle University in Philadelphia. I went to this event organized by the District of Eastern North American Schools (DENA) along with two other St. John’s students, Patrick Schneider ’20 and Elizabeth Thomas ’21. In Philly, we were joined by about 90 students from Lasallian schools in eastern North America and a group of students from Italy.
When we first arrived at La Salle University on Sunday, we got settled into our dorms and started to meet people from different schools. We had a welcome session and talked about our founder, St. John Baptiste de La Salle, as well as many of his teachings. We learned how St. La Salle taught the poor and the rich and accepted many children from different backgrounds in his schools. This was important as we continued our week serving the Philadelphia community. We then had an ice cream social to meet more students. This was a fun way to meet other Lasallian students and form new friendships that would last much longer than the week in Philadelphia.
On our first full day of the assembly, we had a speaker who talked about prejudice and essentially the concept of “am I my brother’s keeper.” Through many presentations and activities, we learned how we are supposed to look after our fellow human beings. This idea was reiterated with the two days of service that followed. On Wednesday and Thursday, about 100 people, students and chaperones, went out to perform service in the Philadelphia area. We were broken up into many groups and we went to several service sites, including schools, food pantries, thrift stores, etc.
I did service at the Ronald McDonald House and West Catholic High School in Philadelphia. At the Ronald McDonald House, I helped prepare food for the families there and disinfected toys. This was important because the families of the Ronald McDonald House have a child in the hospital. They do not always have time to find food, so by preparing food, we helped these families focus on the most important part of their lives, their children. By disinfecting toys, we were helping children who are sick or on antibiotics and have weakened immune systems. At West Catholic High School, we helped around the school, making sure it was ready for the upcoming school year. We cleaned the auditorium and hallways and helped set up bulletin boards.
Over the course of the assembly, we reflected and prayed about the service we did and the things we discussed each day. Every student was paired up with a student from another school to be “prayer partners.” Together, we reflected on the service we did and how we managed to help others through the teachings of St. John Baptist de La Salle. We also had a nightly prayer before dinner led by a group of students from a different school each night to help us think about how to live as good examples of the Lasallian community.
During the Lasallian Youth Assembly in Philadelphia, I got the chance to help a community other than my own that needed my service. I was able to do this through the teachings of St. John Baptist de La Salle with fellow Lasallians. The bond and sense of community I shared with other Lasallians was strengthened during the course of this week as I spent time with Lasallian students and teachers from all over the country and the world.