Hello Gentle Readers!
Thank you all so much for following us thus far! This week has been a completely new experience for me, but a good one, nonetheless.
I have never driven that long in the car…new experience number one. I have never been the minority. At Cristo Rey, three percent of the student population is Caucasian—new experience number two. A vocabulary lesson in slang terms: “juice”, “crispy”, “bucci”, “gucci”, “jeffin’”, “deuces”, “What’s good?”, “What’s goin’ down baby?”, “Bye Cuz (or Fam can be used)!”, and “Ima holla at you”, are a few examples—still working on usage however, new experience number three. New experience number four was in Mrs. Hughes’ English classroom. Oftentimes Fred and I would hear statements that if said on the Carroll campus—or at in least any classroom I’ve ever been in—would be severely reprimanded for. The culture is completely different from what I’ve grown up with, and it has been a very unique experience learning from it and beginning to understand where the lines are here versus where they might be for me. And finally, new experience number five was never being fully certain of what state I’m in. After traveling halfway across the country and going back and forth between Kansas and Missouri all week, I’ve just stopped trying to figure it out. =)
Last night, during prayer with the sisters at the Xavier House, we got into a conversation about the fruits of our immersion and service here in Kansas City. We discussed the opportunities that we have had to connect with the students at Cristo Rey and the relationships that we’re building. Unlike last spring break, we have not always been able to see concrete effects that our service is having. I noticed this when I felt “productive” after cleaning lockers and walls for a couple hours. So… the last couple days (Wednesday and Thursday), I have worked to identify any products of our time, conversations, work, and service.
Here are a few things that I noticed: the feeling that the students were genuinely interested in and attentive to the answers to questions that they were assigned to ask us; the fact that 16 more students will be receiving donated computers fully restored and protected; even if it was just grading papers or addressing envelopes, we gave the gift of time to the teachers and administrators who we were assigned to; a YouTube video posted by adoring fans; being given culture lessons that included handshakes, the “stanky leg”/the “flex”, and urban slang; being greeted enthusiastically by name in the halls or upon entry to “our” classrooms; and last, hugs from people we had and hadn’t met at all Thursday—especially when it was announced that it was our last day.
Before arriving in Kansas City, Colleen mentioned something about how on a service or immersion trip, you always seem to get more out it than what you feel like you’re putting in. After this week, especially, I’m noticing it. I’m returning back to Montana with several new vocabulary words and more importantly, a reminder to always have an enthusiasm for life. No matter what their specific mood, the Cristo Rey students were totally super enthusiastic!
Finally, before returning to the Xavier House this evening, we stopped at the Holy Family House. It is a Catholic Worker house with the philosophy that all who enter (who are sober and safe) are welcome and encouraged to participate positively in the Holy Family House community. Sometimes that just means having a hot meal, coming in to play the guitar and sing, using the phone, purchasing a bus pass, participate in liturgy services, picking up groceries, or talking with other guests and volunteers—no matter one’s state with the law, economic status, marital status, religion, or sexual orientation—no questions asked. We hung out for a bit with some of the guests who stopped by, had Mass, and then had dinner before coming home. It was a great opportunity to get a glimpse of the realities outside of the walls of Cristo Rey.
As my time in Kansas (or Missouri—wherever the heck we are) is drawing to a close, (T – 9 hours until we leave) I’m grateful for this immersion into the Cristo Rey and Kansas City culture. I’ve enjoyed all that has happened so far and am dreading the time that I will have to devote to homework in the car in the coming couple of days…but I suppose that it’s time to return to the Carroll world…
Thank you for keeping up with our blog so far, it means so much to us!
Deuces and Bye Fam!
Today was Ash Wednesday and there was a school Mass. I was lucky enough to have first period free and get to hang out in the Church while students prepared for Mass and was able to talk teacher free with some of them. Students at Cristo Rey are nothing what I expected. Every student I talked to has a dream plan for college, their goal for “getting out” as one student put it. The students are so amazing and tug at your heart by the simple things they say and do. You realize all that you have taken for granted of in life when talking. School is a privilege, not a right. Not all students want to go there, but they know that they are better there being prepared for college rather than in a public school where their dreams would be almost unreachable. I came on this trip thinking I was meant to have a lasting impact on someone’s life but I never thought that I would be the one who’s world was changed. I never realized how many stereotypes that were in my mind until faced with the reality that they are not true. We’re taught that “Inner-city” kids are so different because they are “less privileged” but they have the same if not more dreams than I ever imagined for myself. These students are more than a stereotype, more than a cliché. They break the barriers set against them on a daily basis. In fact, students at Cristo Rey share responsibility with each other, they stand up for each other, demanding respect of and for all their peers. I haven’t talked to one student that said they aren’t going to go to college. It’s like the word can’t isn’t in their vocabulary and they know that nothing can hold them back unless they allow it to, because they are the holder of their own future. They truly “look forward to the good that is yet to be.” I will never look at people through the same stereotypical eyes again. I am not better than anyone else, no matter what their circumstances and no one is better than me. I leave you with this, a prayer that is prayed in the classroom I’m in daily, “God, help me to open my eyes widely, look about me, and see other peoples not blinded by color, not based on race. Help me to see each man as my brother, each person my equal, each woman my sister. Let me live my life with equality.”
Serving at Cristo Rey, Kansas City is an awesome experience. Today is Wednesday, the third day we have been helping out at the high school. I am enjoying trying to learn names and seeing the students get excited every time our group is around. After classes today we stayed a little longer to help with an after school study session. I was able to help a couple of students with their math homework and seeing them start to get it was really encouraging. I love how creatively this school was set up. There is a focus on getting the students to college and each student has the chance to experience a white-collar work environment all the way through high school here. I am excited to be encouraging these students to keep going on this path, and by seeing how simple it is to be a good influence I hope to bring their attitudes home with me. I hope you are all doing well and I will see you later.
This week has been amazing so far. So many wonderful experiences have happened already and we still have 3 days left to our adventure. I have been able to meet so many new people here who have inspired me already. Yesterday I was able to talk to a junior girl here at Cristo Rey. The first thing she told me was how scared she is about college and how she wants to be a nursing major but is afraid of how hard college will be. Talking to her reminded me of some of the fears I had when I was going to college and the things I struggled with when I was a freshman.
Today is Ash Wednesday and the teacher I am following this week had his students write down on pieces of paper what they are giving up for Lent, and he plans on keeping them and giving them back to the students after Lent. I got to hear a little bit about what these kids are doing during lent, and a lot of them said stuff that related to helping other people like doing chores for their parents and doing more community service. The kids at this school really have big hearts and you can see that through the way they treat others and give back.
I keep meeting a lot of the wonderful students here, but have also gotten to see what is behind the scenes. I worked yesterday with an administrative person who coordinates all of the jobs for the students when they have to go work for a day out of the week. Her job is definitely a busy one and I can’t even imagine how much work she does for the school. It makes me think about and really appreciate of all the teachers, family, friends, and others I have had in my life who have supported me and gotten me to where I am today.
I am defiantly looking forward to our final day tomorrow, getting to know these kids has been a huge privilege.
(by the way new slang word we learned… deuces means goodbye.)
Hello Blog Readers!
Today is our third day at the Cristo Ray High School and it never fails to be exciting. The students here are always laughing, smiling, and joking. It is almost impossible not to put you in a better mood.
From the first day I saw similarities between Cristo Ray and my high school experience. Like Cristo Ray, my high school was a college prep school with a strict dressed code and hard academics. I remember the days of khaki pants, along with the attempts to break dress code in the sneakiest way possible. It was not until after I graduated high school that I realized how blessed and fortunate I was. Not only did I receive a great education with inspiring teachers, but I was pushed to do my best and think outside the realm of high school. Students at Cristo Ray are also receiving a great education. And while they are learning the usual algebra, history and biology, they are also learning how to behave outside the world of high school. By going to this school they have the upper advantage. They learn the responsibilities of being a working adult; how to dress, how to act and much more. The tools they learn now will help them succeed later on.
The students have often said to me “aren’t we the most rambunctious bunch you have ever seen?” And the answer is yes; but this is not necessarily a bad thing. I have much respect for the teachers and the patience they demonstrate with the students. And when I got the chance to talk to the students one on one, I saw a different side to them. Not only are they bright, but they also are passionate about what they believe in. They have goals, dreams, and ambitions. They know what they want and don’t want in life. I can’t help but be inspired to live my life in a similar way.
In our night-time discussions, after we have finished our day at the school, we are asked the question, ‘Where did you see Christ today?’ And while this is a difficult question, I can’t help but think that I see Christ everywhere in this school. I see it in the hallways, the classrooms, in the teachers, and in the students. His presence is always present in this school.
Peace and Love ☺
Hey there everybody!!!!
This is Mr. Fred and Matea. We have just come back from a long day of service, and let’s just say today IT WAS AWESOME. We started out the day with assembly with the whole school. What a great way to meet the students and staff. Then, we had a few hours of orientation to learn about what the mission of Cristo Rey is. We were so inspired to learn how the school works and how much passion is poured into the students’ education. This morning Fred got to hang out in an American Literature class with Kirsten. It was really great to see the combination of extreme enthusiasm and legit learning that these students portrayed. It was refreshing to see the balance of fun and academics in the classroom. The connection of the students and teachers was phenomenal and the students had an obvious respect for the teachers. Fred also had the PRIVILEGE to download software onto computers that were donated to the school for students that don’t have computers available to them at home. During this time, Mr. Fred got to know one of the students at Cristo Rey. He is an IT assistant for the high school and Fred was great to get to know him and understand a little more about him and his journey through high school thus far. It was great to hear his excitement about his future and his appreciation for the opportunities he has been given at Cristo Rey. Fred can’t wait for tomorrow!
So, Matea had a much different yet very similar experience. She was in a theology class with Sister Suzanne. The classes were all seniors and they were hilarious. Matea had a chance to share a little bit about her experience at college and what a great experience it is. The students were very interested about Montana, Carroll, and college in general. They wanted to know what to expect, what to prepare for, and what to do when they get to college. It was so wonderful to see the students excited to know more about college. Many of the students already knew where they were going. It was so awesome to witness. I cannot wait to see what the rest of the week has in store for us. The students have already taught us so much and I know we have even more to learn. Fred and I say goodnight for now, we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow!
Peace and blessings,
Fred and Matea
Today was our first day at Cristo Rey High School. We were assigned to different teachers in different subjects. I was assigned to a history teacher and an administrator at the school. The first thing we did at Cristo Rey was going to an assembly, and it was way different than any assembly I had ever been to going to a public high school. They were very respectful of all of their peers and respectful to their teachers. This was something that I saw throughout the day as I watched students say hi and chat with to their teachers and be friendly with everyone. I was able to talk to a lot of the administration at Cristo Rey and I can tell how passionate people are about the students and how much they want to help them. I was able to go to a world history class and the student there were awesome and friendly. Throughout the day I was asked a lot where I was from and one person asked if Idaho Falls was in Virginia…. pretty sure it’s in Idaho ;). It amazed me how strict the dress code is at Cristo Rey because I have never had anything like that, but after talking to a couple of students they seem to like it because everyone looks professional and it helps them when they go out and work to know how to dress already. The way they structure their school to help high school kids who are economically disadvantaged is enlightening, and it has been eye opening to get to see a different culture outside of my own. I think what struck me the most today was how appreciated our help seemed to everyone. All of the students wanted to know more about us and were excited to have us there.
Now we are going to have dinner with the Sisters of Leavenworth, and I am looking forward to going back to the High School tomorrow.
Peace, Amy Sherman
Hello and Thanks for following the Headlights Blog!
After two long days of driving we are safely in Kansas City. Since yesterday morning, we have covered 6 states (Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas) and driven 1200 miles. Thankfully everything went well and we had no problems at all. A highlight of our trip was meeting Clete Helvey and Julian Rogers in Omaha for lunch, two Carroll grads and former Headlights trip participants. It was great to see them both.
We arrived in Kansas City, Missouri and had dinner with Christian Brothers Dale and Jim and two Lasallian volunteers. After working for 1199 miles the GPS decided to give out on the last mile and we got lost, so after arriving a bit late to dinner we had a great conversation with them and learned a lot about the school we will be at this week. We also figured that it is possible that Brother Jim crossed paths with our Headlights group in San Lucas Toliman last May in Guatemala. Yes, it is a small world.
We are now with the Sisters of Charity in Kansas City, Kansas for the night and were happy to arrive and get settled in. Three of the sisters who live in the house here are from Montana. So we also found a few more connections between our group and the sisters – again proving the small world theory. It is good to be here.
I am excited for the experiences that await us this week. We have a busy week ahead but I am confident it will be a good one and I feel blessed to be with these 12 students. Rochester group, you are in our prayers!
Sunday Night, 3/6/11
We are finally in Kansas City after two days of driving! The car ride was great, but it’s nice to be done. It has been a good opportunity to get to know everyone in our group. We went to Mass this morning in Mitchell, SD. The Priest was talking about preparing for Lent, because Ash Wednesday is this week. I have been thinking about how good it is to have seasons of the Church year where we are reminded to examine our lives and prayer. I have noticed that it is so easy to get lazy in the spiritual life and fall away from relationship with Christ. Recently I learned a good lesson about prayer. I had gotten lazy, and I saw my outlook on life was becoming negative. A good friend reminded me to pray, and it is amazing how just ten extra minutes in the chapel can change how we look at everything. The priest this morning encouraged us to challenge ourselves this lent; to do something out of the ordinary that we would not usually do, whether it be service or fasting or prayer. I was thinking about this Headlights trip and how it is a great way to begin Lent – by serving others. But I also want to make sure that it doesn’t stop there. This is just another step to bring us closer to God.
I have been reading the Diary of Saint Faustina. One thing she says that strikes me is that we ought to continue praying even when it seems like our prayer means nothing, when we can’t focus or feel like our words are empty and we are not being sincere. God does not always show himself to us, but He wants us to be close to him especially then, because He loves us. My prayer for this trip is that God will challenge us and bring us out of our comfort zone. He is the best one to challenge us because he knows what we can handle, and he knows where we need to grow – usually in the very place we are weak and would rather not be tested. I hope we will not be afraid to accept whatever challenges He brings our way this week.
We are staying at a house with the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth. They are all very sweet and friendly and I am looking forward to spending time with them this week. We will be getting up and going to the High School at 6:30 tomorrow where we will be spending the week in service. I am looking forward to learning a lot and building relationships this week.
~Sarena Plesner (first time Headlighter)
Headlights was such an important and influential part of my experience as a student that I wanted to write and let all of you know that you will be in my prayers. I’ll pray that your hearts and minds remain open to new experiences, that you are challenged to explore deeper issues of justice, and that this trip sparks within you a commitment to serving others for the rest of your lives.
I encourage you to not only remain attentive the particular community and people that you serve, but to also consider what you can bring back to your own community. I challenge you to return to Montana with new eyes, ready to seek out injustice at a local level, and prepared to do something about it! So often a service immersion experience becomes something we stick in our back pocket and reflect upon as an experience with both a beginning and an end. I hope that for each of you, Headlights isn’t just something you look back on and remember, but that it’s an experience you continue to consciously live.