Ashley Miller | Volunteer

Earlier this year I heard about a community outreach program that we have here at USLI called “La Salle Mentors”, and decided to join. Those who decide to take part in the program serve as mentors for 7th and 8th grade students at the La Salle Academy, which is located in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. The school educates kids from third to eighth grade. Their mission is to provide a Catholic education to those who cannot normally afford it. The average income of the families whose children attend the school is $18,500. Just after making one visit to the school, it was very evident that they are doing something very special at La Salle Academy. When we walked in the door of the school a few weeks ago, we were greeted by a few fourth graders who were walking down the hallway. They came over to us, welcomed us to their school, and shook our hands. I can remember my fourth grade class, and they definitely wouldn’t have been polite enough to do that! For the first event, I shadowed Ken Ferguson, a leader from my department (Commercial Underwriting), and I met his mentee Charlie.

Charlie is an 8th grader from the Huntingdon Park section of Philadelphia. He was a little shy, but very nice and extremely polite, which seems like a trend among the students at La Salle Academy. We sat, ate dinner and talked for a couple of hours. Charlie’s main interests are video games and making Claymation-type short films which he posts on his own YouTube channel. Charlie offered to get me more food and to throw away my plate multiple times, and was always concerned whether Ken and I were OK. I think Charlie and the other kids have much more to teach me than I have to teach them!

This past weekend I attended the La Salle Mentors event hosted at Tom Nerney’s Barn. The property is incredibly beautiful with multiple acres of grassy hills, a beautiful barn with multiple horses, and the main house on top of the hill. I got there just as the school bus full of kids was arriving. As soon as they got off the bus we all got in line for lunch and I was introduced to Ricardo, the 8th grader that I’d be mentoring for the day since his mentor was unable to make it. Both of us got our lunches and then went and sat down to eat with Ricardo’s friend Chris, who was going to hang with us until his mentor arrived. Ricardo and Chris both love basketball and play for their team at school. Ricardo has two older brothers and one younger brother and likes hanging out with his cousin and playing basketball games on PlayStation4 with him. In his free time at home he’s either playing video games or going to the park to play basketball with his friends. Once we finished eating Ricardo, Chris and I decided to walk around and try to find something to do. They spotted the tree-house at the top of the hill and decided they wanted to go check it out. We went up there and hung out by the tree-house for a little while, and then they wanted to go play basketball. We went over to the basketball hoop in Mr. Nerney’s driveway and started shooting around. They’re both pretty good! We continued to shoot around until Chris’ mentor arrived, and then we played a game of two on two, which turned into four on four once a small crowd arrived at the basketball hoop. I didn’t realize how out of shape I was until I tried to run around with 8th graders for an hour! After basketball, we went back down to the barn to get some water. Ricardo heard about how some of the other kids were using a slingshot to shoot apples near one of the horse paddocks, something that Penny Taney had set up for the kids, so we went over there to check it out. Ricardo launched a few apples and seemed to be enjoying himself.

Before they left, Ricardo and I tossed a football around for a little while and talked about what he was going to do this upcoming week. After a little more time had passed, it was time for the kids to leave. Ricardo and I shook hands and he told me he had a great time and hopes to see me again at the next event. It was a really great day and everyone involved seemed to have a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to the next La Salle Mentors event!

Written by Tyler Midgette