Learn to Love and Love to Learn

(Reflection offered by a recent graduate at the Faculty and Staff end-of-year meeting at La Salle Academy on Monday, 13 June 2016)


John Baptist de La Salle founded a school in France over 300 years ago in order to make education a more valuable tool for the poor boys in France. The tradition of a non-traditional education lives on today, as the spirit of John Baptist de La Salle radiates through the halls of La Salle Academy.

Teaching in a Lasallian manner means to bring something different to your classroom environment. Teaching in a Lasallian manner means to engage students, love students, and guide students, for the betterment of society as a whole.

For me, La Salle has been the embodiment of what John Baptist de La Salle wanted for each of his students. Starting with the formation of the Lasallian tradition in the PEGASUS 7/8 program with Bob Lisi, Mr. Danielian, Mr. Gilroy, Mrs. Cawthorn, Mrs. Ejnes, Mr. Hancox, Ms. Cook, and so on helped me to understand what it means to be Lasallian. Before I entered the high school part of my career in this building, I knew what La Salle was meant to be for me: a place where I would “learn to love, and love to learn.” That is the Lasallian way, is it not?

Making this more personal, I would like to highlight a few teachers whose dedication to the Lasallian way made my experience in this institution beautiful and more vibrant:

Mrs. Martinelli is a person who exemplifies the charism of a Lasallian educator. Not only does Mrs. Martinelli carefully guide her classes through subject material, but she also came in before school and stayed after school to help her students with study sessions. Even though I was consistent with receiving 88’s on nearly every test and exam in both Biology and Microbiology, Mrs. Martinelli was always confident that I would be able to push myself to get the “A”. Mrs. Martinelli always loved to share personal stories about her grandchildren or talk about the impact of the subject material on our lives and that is not something that I or many other students would have experienced in an institution other than La Salle Academy.

Mr. Sirois is another example of a person whose qualities as a teacher have impacted me as a student and a person. In the classroom, Mr. Sirois engaged his students by playing different music videos and trying to use media as a way to connect with his students. Whether the videos were funny or serious in nature, Mr. Sirois always encouraged his students to be open to new ideas, thoughts, and opinions, especially when it came to matters of faiths other than Catholicism. He always managed to make me smile on days where I thought that I was not going to be able to push through, while at the same time challenging me to live up to the goals and the will that God has for me.

Ms. Hayes is another person who exemplifies the virtues of a Lasallian educator. Each day when I came into class as a performing arts student, she would show me how to discover the talents that God placed within me. I credit her with helping me discover the passion that I have for being on stage and opening myself up to doing things that I am not necessarily comfortable with. I can recall several occasions where Ms. Hayes told me not to hold back in following a dream—- even saying, “follow your dream, the money will come.” This was something that helped me to realize that God would not place a dream in my heart if He did not want me to pursue it.

I apologize to all of the teachers that I did not mention. I wish I could give testimony to you all, as each teacher has been formative to me in growing as a learner and a person. To all of the teachers that I had in the classroom and to all of those who I have not had, remember the ways that you can be the love of Jesus in the life of your students. Remember you have the power to work small miracles in your guidance of each student. Remember that you hold the keys to your students’ success, and teach them how to love learning. Remember that when you show love and compassion to your students, they see and learn how to love.

That’s the Lasallian way: Learn to love, and love to learn.

Nathan Ledoux–Class of 2016

What Do Teachers Do?

(Reflection offered by a recent graduate at the Faculty and Staff end-of-year meeting at La Salle Academy on Monday, 13 June 2016)


What do teachers do? Well, I work at a library and one day I was shelving books in the children’s section and came across one with this exact title. As it was a slow day at work and I was curious, I decided to peek inside the book and see exactly how the role of a teacher was to be defined. Immediately it began to discuss lesson planning and teaching an actual course. This got me thinking. Yes, you all do just that. You work tirelessly planning lessons, grading papers, creating innovative ways to teach lessons, and standing in front of rooms full of students each day and sharing your wealth of knowledge. To some extent, that is what you all do here at La Salle. And I’m sure that there are many teachers at other schools who let their roles stop there. But those of us here at La Salle have been blessed with getting so much more from our teachers than just a textbook lesson.

I have personally always been that kid that makes friends with my teachers. Even in elementary school I loved to share my passions with my teachers. When I was being bullied when I was younger, teachers were often the friends that I could turn to on a rough day. Here at La Salle I, along with many other students, have been met with the same kindness and encouragement both in the classroom and outside. Without the teachers here at La Salle, the students, especially those of us in the class of 2016 who just graduated, would not have been able to achieve the great accomplishments that we have. Whether it be on the sports field, video studio, art room, the stage, in organizations, or in the science lab, the lessons that we have learned have extended far outside of the classroom.

While it would be impossible to fully reveal the numerous ways that each of you has impacted all of those students who have been in your classes, I can share my own experience here. In Biology I didn’t just learn that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, but how to be efficient and organized when working on long term projects that require large amounts of research. In English I learned from numerous literary works and classroom discussions how to question the world around us. I have learned to understand the minds and beliefs of many different people from different background with different experiences allowing me to be better prepared to go out into the world to help others and understand them, just as St John Baptist de La Salle did. In religion I have not only continued my personal faith journey but gained a deeper acceptance for those who differ from myself and have seen the beauty in traditions from many cultures. In physics I have not just learned about the mathematical application that accompanies Newton’s third law of motion, but also I was taught how to push myself to solve problems in front of me and not give up immediately on something that I am not immediately good at. In video production I learned about the ability within me to tell stories through image and the worlds that my creativity can create. From history I have learned that it is important to acknowledge the past and all of its mistakes so that we might learn and grow from them. In philosophy I learned not only about Plato and Aristotle but about how to think and the importance of questioning everything. The list goes on and on.

But it is not only the in-classroom role that teachers have that has had a profound impact. It is the ability to stay after school every Tuesday and discuss everything from struggles to jokes to continuing classroom discussions. The ability to email a teacher in the middle of the summer in the middle of a personal crisis and have them respond, ready to help me in any way that they can. I have been blessed with many teachers who have encouraged my passions, aiding me with my writing, photography, and my campaign. I am thankful for those who have stayed after class to talk about decisions in my life, whether it be where to go to college or when in a fight with a friend. And then there are always the teachers that have been able to make me smile or laugh, ensuring me that there is always something to smile about. I know through talking to many of my friends and peers that this has not just been the case for me but for numerous others, and we leave these halls better and stronger people due to the love and support from all of you sitting before me today.

So I would like to say the sincerest thank you to all of you here today, especially the teachers that I have had the privilege of learning from.  Without you all I don’t know that I would have been able to find the strength to overcome all of the obstacles that have come my way and found the confidence to go out into the world to pursue the things I love. Know that you have impacted my life exponentially along with all of your other students and what you do here each and every day is important and valued.
Thank you.

Samantha Kennedy–Class of 2016

The End of Our White-Water Rafting Trip

(Student Address delivered at the La Salle Academy Commencement Exercises on Wednesday evening, 8 June 2016)


Your Excellency, Bishop Evans; Brother Thomas; Mr. Kavanagh; Representatives of the Diocese and the Brothers of the Christian Schools; Members of the Board; Faculty; Alumni; Parents; Guests; and fellow members of the graduating Class of 2016,

Senior year is full of lasts: the last time we put on our school uniforms, the last time we cheered in the Beehive, the last time we got senior privilege and smirked to our friends that we got to leave early, and today: the last time that we, the class of 2016, will all be in the same room, together as one. At our first senior assembly of the fall you probably thought: this is the last time I am going to hear about Mr. Kavanagh’s white-water rafting trip. You were wrong. We are going to talk about it one last time, right now.

Mr. Kavanagh first told us the story of his white-water rafting vacation at the beginning of our freshman year. When he went on this adventure many years ago, he was struck not only by water, but also by the parallels between white-water rafting and high school. Throughout our four years he has continued to draw from these comparisons, using this story to motivate us to succeed and warn us about the obstacles ahead.

Freshman year was a lot like starting off down a powerful river. We were bombarded by new friends, new clubs, new sports teams, and a new course load. We had to listen to our teachers and our dean to learn quickly what it meant to be Lasallian: a person of faith, service, and community. Without the guidance of these role models, we may have drowned. Then, in sophomore year, we tested the waters. We stopped being little freshmen and got bigger roles in the school plays and starting positions on the sports fields. We discovered what classes interested us and became involved outside of the classroom. Junior year was a challenge. We traveled through rough waters where giant boulders crouched underneath the water, waiting to snag our raft. We started taking advanced classes and the SATs. We got leadership positions and driver’s licenses. It took all of our collective efforts to help each other navigate and make sure no one got stuck on the boulders. However, some of us did. Many of us were faced with difficult challenges junior year, and it is truly a testament to the strong community here at La Salle that we are all here celebrating our graduation today.

Even though the journey was hard, we finally made it to senior year. We jumped out of the raft and floated down the river on our own. We applied to colleges, gained more independence, and started making our own decisions. We felt alone as we floated without the raft, not noticing that our teachers were still waiting nearby, ready to dive in and save us at a moment’s notice.

Now that our journey is over, we expect to get out onto dry land. But at the end of the river is not a shady picnic spot, or your mother waiting with towels and dry clothes. At the end of the river is the ocean. And as the river on which we have been journeying flows into the tumultuous waves of the ocean, we are separated from our companions and forced to sink or swim. We have become skilled white-water rafters, but can we apply this knowledge to handle the open seas?

Surprisingly, the lessons that we will need to stay afloat are not the lessons that we crammed into our brains the night before a test or scribbled down during homeroom. When we look back on our education at La Salle in many years, we might not remember what the secant of pi/3 is, or who said, “Out, out, brief candle.” What we will remember is far more important. We will remember what it takes to be Lasallian: faith, service, and community.

La Salle is one of those unique places where faith, service, and community come to life each day. Praying together every morning and reminding ourselves of God’s presence at the beginning of each class has strengthened our faith. Spending our Wednesdays at different sites around the community developed our sense of service. And sharing special intentions with our classmates and teachers helped build our community bonds. After four years that were both too long and too short, we will leave this safe haven where everyone cares about us. There will be no teachers to stay after school to help us make up missed material or inquire about how we played in yesterday’s game, no Dean McVey to watch over us to make sure that we succeed. We are going to lose the safety of our raft once we leave La Salle and enter the huge body of water that is the adult world.

But it is our strong faith, our dedication to service, and our sense of community that will guide us in these sometimes-troubled waters. Our Catholic, Lasallian education will shine like a light in the darkness, reminding us of our faith and guiding us to get out of our comfort zones and change the world.

We are the future leaders, teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, social workers, engineers, clergy members, artists, and of course, mathematicians, who will revolutionize the world. It has been one of the greatest privileges to be around all of you for these last four years. I could not have asked for better companions on this white-water-rafting adventure. You have taught me so much more than I could ever hope to learn in a classroom. You embody the spirit of St. John Baptist de La Salle and I know that we are a class that will dedicate ourselves to giving back to the communities that have given us so much. Many of us have already begun.

Thank you so much to the teachers and administration, and most importantly, congratulations to us, the class of 2016.

Allison R. Paul–Class of 2016

We Now Accept Responsibility

(Student Welcome Address delivered at the La Salle Academy Commencement Exercises on Wednesday evening, 8 June 2016)


Your Excellency, Bishop ­­­Evans; Brother Thomas; Mr. Kavanagh; Representatives of the Diocese and the Brothers of the Christian Schools; Members of the Board; Faculty; Alumni; Parents; Guests; and fellow members of the graduating Class of 2016,

As we move forward from a significant period of our lives, it is important that we look back and contemplate on the influences that have transformed us. Since infancy, we have been shaped by our observations and experiences. We have been guided by prior generations. Whether it be our parents teaching us to walk or speak our first words, or prominent figures in pop-culture, the generations that have come before us have molded us into the individuals we are today. Take childhood cartoons for example. A yellow sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea taught us about fun and how to spell the word “campfire”. Twitter taught us how to express our lives in 140 characters or less and how to use little yellow faces to convey our emotions. Netflix taught us the art of binge watching and that no matter how late it is, there is always enough time for another episode. Picture-based apps like Instagram and Snapchat have taught us that everyone is a professional photographer and that filters can fix just about anything. Music icons like Carly Rae Jepson and, one-eyed-wonder, Fetty Wop have taught us that against all odds, anyone can succeed, no matter how much talent they don’t have. And of course there are the Kardashians, who have taught us nothing at all.

Considering all of these influences, a significant factor in our lives, as members of the graduating class of 2016, is the mission that La Salle Academy has instilled in us. The Academy has taught us Lasallian principles such as compassion, empathy, and generosity so that we continue the legacy of St. John Baptist de La Salle. Principles such as these allow students and graduates to fulfill the Lasallian mission. This mission is a calling to further our Catholic identity and further our relationship with Jesus Christ by using our education as a tool of service. To say it simply, “Enter to learn, leave to serve.”  This phrase embodies the meaning of the Lasallian mission, the calling to respect education and use our knowledge to help those who are less fortunate. This influence has continued the process of molding us into THE contributing members of society.

As we leave La Salle and the road we have traveled for the past four years comes to an end, a new path begins. From this point on, our generation, specifically the graduating class of 2016, is responsible for the advancement and direction of our society.

  • We will be the doctors making breakthroughs in healthcare, the pharmaceutical scientists who develop new or improved medications, and the medical experts who unlock new secrets of the human anatomy.
  • We will be engineers of our generation who augment old inventions and fashion new technology, making this world ever more efficient.
  • We will be the innovators who take music to new heights, and make strides in the arts that no one could have anticipated.
  • We will be the actors, actresses, and performers spending hours on stage or on television in front of record breaking audiences.

We will encounter formidable challenges on this path, but as La Salle Academy graduates, we have many notable alumni that we can look to for inspiration; figures such as governors, senators, representatives, news broadcasters, professional and semi-professional athletes, and Attorneys General. Many alumni also play significant roles in the church, figures like Christian Brothers, Catholic priests and bishops who can help us to strengthen our spiritual relationships. One does not have to look far to see the impact of a La Salle education. There are teachers and administrators who have graduated from the Academy and returned to live out the Lasallian mission. These alumni can serve as models for us as we enter into the unknown.

As La Salle graduates, we have a responsibility to make the world a better place. No longer is our road paved for us like it has been in the past. Now we must forge our own paths. This is an exciting but frightening adventure. Not only are we responsible for our own decisions now, but our decisions affect those around us. Fortunately, we will not need to tackle such an intimidating task alone. The virtues that La Salle has taught us will guide us in the right direction. The discipline, dedication, determination, and motivation that La Salle has demanded from us over the past four years will allow us to steer our society, not only in the right direction, but in the best direction.

While growing up, we have lived in the shadow of previous generations, their accomplishments influenced who we are. Over the past four years, we have exceeded the expectations others have had for us, living up to the legacy of classes that have come before us. Now, as we graduate from La Salle and enter into the world beyond, we establish our own paths as individuals and as the class of 2016. We are a class of champions, record breakers, performers, artists, and lyrical geniuses with immeasurable potential. By walking across this stage tonight and receiving our diplomas, we, as a class, accept the responsibility laid out before us. With the guidance of the 145 La Salle Academy graduated classes that have come in the past, and other significant influences such as our parents, family, friends, teachers, and administrators, we accept this responsibility with pride. This is a heavy task, but the class that sits here today is more than capable of accepting it. Not only will we take on such a duty, but we will take it and run with it. We will continue to excel, creating a better, more hopeful future, one with this class leading it to a greater and more Lasallian world.

Mason J. Bernard–Class of 2016

Thinking About Our Last Day

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Friday morning, 3 June 2016)

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of a loving God…

Today is the last day of classes.  Next week, you’ll take your exams and then enjoy the summer, but soon it will be the last day of summer.  As each year passes, you get closer to your last day of high school.  And then the next step is college, and several years from now you’ll be celebrating your last day of college.  And maybe some of you will have a last day of law school, or med school, or even seminary.  You’ll also one day have that last day of engagement before your wedding.  There are lots of last days that you will experience in the coming years.


The one thing we all have in common, however, is each of us will have an ultimate last day…the last day of our lives.  None of us knows when that last day will be.  Now, you might be thinking, “Fr. Najim, why are you being so morbid on the last day of classes?”

But actually, it’s not morbid at all.  In fact, thinking about our last day is a wonderful way to be inspired to live life more fully today.  When we think about our ultimate last day, it puts our lives in perspective. Thinking about our ultimate last day encourages us to think about the legacy we want to leave.  When we think about our ultimate last day, we most likely won’t think about money or fame or the material things we’ve accumulated; we’ll think about relationships: for example, who are the people we need to forgive, who are the people to whom we need to say “I love you.”  It helps us to think about our relationship with God and how we are serving him today.  Thinking about our last day prompts us to be more selfless instead of selfish.  In short, thinking about our last day will help us to be more committed to being the best version of ourselves today.


So, remember that God created you for a special purpose, and if you want to know and live that purpose, thinking about your last day is a great way to help you to know and live that purpose to the full.

Let us pray: Lord, help us to remember that we will all have a last day and that we will see you face to face on that day.  Help us, Jesus, to live the purpose for which you created us.  Help us to live a life of service to you and to our fellow humans beings.  AMEN.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts…forever.

Reverend Michael Najim–Chaplain

How Is Your Heart Today?

(A Reflection and Prayer for Friday, 3 June 2016)

Today is the First Friday of June and also the Feast of the Sacred Heart.   Now you might be saying—why are we honoring a part of the body as holy and sacred?  The Sacred Heart is the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  You may have seen a statue or a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (maybe in your home or in your grandparents’ home or in your parish church)—often the picture is of Jesus from the waist up with one hand pointing to or touching his heart which is outside of his clothes and is wounded or pierced and surrounded by a crown of thorns.


The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a reminder of God’s great love for us—“God so loved the world that He gave His only Son”—and Jesus’ great love for us—“Greater love than this has no person that one lay down one’s life for a friend.”  And Jesus did lay down his life for us—for each of us—Scripture telling us that after his death on the cross one of the Roman soldiers pierced his side with a lance, pierced his heart to make sure he was dead, and immediately blood and water flowed out.  Jesus gave his last ounce of blood for us.  It is that heart so filled with love that we remember and honor on First Fridays and indeed, in a special way, today.


The heart we see depicted in the pictures and statues might look like a Valentine’s Day heart or the cartoon heart that pounds and flutters to depict a budding romance; however, the heart of Jesus is far different from the sentimental, sugary, saccharine sweet heart of commercialism and pop culture.  It is a heart of expansiveness, a heart of courage, a heart wounded but still welcoming.  It is a heart full of mercy, the mercy that Pope Francis has spoken about over and over again, especially during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. And it is this heart that we are challenged to make our own.  Each day we Lasallians pray that Jesus live in our hearts forever—we pray that the heart of Jesus come to life in our hearts, that the heart of Jesus become our heart.  Now that is a challenge!!


How expansive, how open is our heart?  Do I welcome the stranger, the outcast, the classmate who is different?  Or am I closed-hearted, letting in only those like me?  Do I allow my heart-strings to be tugged or am I so hard-hearted that I reject anyone or anything that might deeply touch me?  I know that many of our Seniors opened their hearts to those served in Christian Service.  I know that those who went to Camden or Chicago or Apopka or Blackfeet Reservation or Tennessee opened their hearts to the young people and older alike, those on the margins of our society—the blogs and reflections clearly indicate that.  Will I, will you, open our hearts today and allow them to be tugged on or will we close them off—make them  hearts of stone, impenetrable, unable to be wounded?


How courageous is our heart?  When the lion in the Wizard of Oz sought a heart he was looking for courage.  Am I willing to stand up for what I believe?  Am I willing to be a leader in my group and put an end to rumors, scandalous talk, bullying, etc.?  Or am I weak-hearted and faint-hearted, afraid to say or do anything that might call attention to me?  Am I lion-hearted and a brave-heart or am I chicken-hearted and a cowardly heart?


How willing am I to allow my heart to be wounded?  A sign that we are alive is that we suffer heartache and even suffer heart-break.  If our heart does not ache after a heart-breaking loss in athletic competition or after a poor performance in our school work, then our heart was never in it—it was not important enough.  Heart ache measures the strength that we desire something or want something or love something or someone.  One need only experience the loss of a close family member through death or the loss of a friend through moving away or the loss of someone we love because our paths move in different directions (as will happen over the next week of so with the Seniors and those of us who have come to care deeply for them)—one need only experience that to know that hearts can break and hearts can ache.  Yet, it is in the very woundedness of our hearts that we can become stronger and welcome another dream, another challenge, another person to love.  The heart grows stronger when we live through the wounds that inevitably come in life, when we welcome them as part of life, when we welcome them as gift.


So, how is your heart today? Expansive and open, courageous, willing to be wounded for the sake of something or someone you love dearly?  Will Jesus find in your heart, in my heart, a resting place today for his Sacred Heart?


Let us pray: Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love.  Have mercy on us!  Heart of Jesus, source of all life and love.  Have mercy on us!  Heart of Jesus, patient and most merciful.  Have mercy on us!  Heart of Jesus, make our hearts like yours—full of life and love, holy and pleasing in God’s sight.  AMEN.


Saint John Baptist de La Salle…Pray for us.

May the Heart of Jesus live in our hearts…Forever.

Brother Frederick Mueller, FSC