The Way Home: Exit Interviews

Read the final paragraphs of each student on the trip as they traveled home from Browning...
This week, I grew in patience and compassion by working with students at de LaSalle Blackfeet. They got distracted very easily from completing their work but I ended up building strong relationships with them. In my classroom, I was able to learn each of their stories and it was tough to understand the fact that these kids, who had so much to offer, went home to some difficult home lives. The duality of the town of Browning was so apparent—A town where one in three people were addicted to drugs and alcohol and where more than half of the total population lived below the poverty line sat beneath the beautiful Rockies Mountains. I hope I never forget the view from the top of the Buffalo Jumps and from snowshoeing in Glacier National Park. Most is importantly, I hope I never forget the relationships I built with the 6th grade at De La Salle Blackfeet School. I went into the trip with the goal to make a difference, and I hope I did. I will always remember this immersion experience and the relationships I formed. ~Zack
Throughout my immersion trip in Montana, I feel like I grew as a leader and began to understand the troubles others go through. My highlight of the week was being able to get a 7th grader, Richard, to trust me and let me help him with academics. After a little bonding, he finally allowed me to help. The toughest thing I had to overcome was the struggle of pushing the kids to open up to me. I will always remember the view of the Rocky Mountains, living together with nine of my brothers, and the way the kids look at you when they finally get the answer. I believe I did meet my goals of becoming a man of community and connecting on a deep level with those I served. ~Jack
The most difficult aspect of service, particularly short-term service, is coming to terms with the fact that you aren’t saving the world.  You can’t go into a place for a week and leave it with all its problems fixed.  What I’ve learned, however, is that if you come with an open mind, an open heart, and a readiness to pour every ounce of your energy into those you’re serving, then you can make a difference.  I came to that realization in the classrooms of the De La Salle School.  By pushing students like Bernie, Koda, Tucker, Jodee, and the rest of the fifth grade to succeed, I provided them the attention and assistance that they generally lacked, if only for a week.  As the week continued, I noticed that I was learning more from the kids then they were from me.  They taught me to be resilient, joyous, and caring in all circumstances, and I will always be grateful for that.  They made me better, and I hope to bring that positive change back to my own community. ~Malcolm
Going into this week, I was nervous about how the kids at de LaSalle would take me, considering they have many immersion groups throughout the school year. However, after meeting the students at Holy Angels where we went to tutor before we left for Montana, and seeing that they liked me and enjoyed my presence, I was ready for the challenge in Montana. Throughout the week, I went from helping students one on one to teaching a small group a lesson, something that brought me a lot of joy. When the week at De LaSalle came to an end, I had grown much closer to the kids then I had expected I would. They were a lot of fun but they also challenged my patience and mental strength. I was challenged with the kids who had trouble learning and my patience was tested with the slower ones of the class. I believe I completed my goal of discovering who I really am because those kids gave me importance and worth. They cared about me and looked out for me throughout the week. They also benefited from what I had to offer and I hope they continue to succeed in the future. I can see myself being an Lasallian Volunteer (like several of the teachers at DLSBS) or a teacher later in my life because of how much passion I found for teaching this week. I will remember this experience for the rest of my life and I hope to get in touch with the kids soon. ~Ben
I was kind of nervous going into this trip. I was not sure how the kids would accept me, considering I am a white teenager that lives on the opposite side of the country. However, after the first day I knew I would have no problem with them. The kids were really accepting and receptive to Jake and I, even though they barely knew us. I shaped real friendships with my students.  Even ones who started out not willing to learn, and by the end of the week we found ways to motivate them to do real work and develop a passion for their academics. I will never forget the relationships I formed with these Blackfeet children. I was also nervous going in about being accepted by the other kids on this trip. Besides Andrew and Stephen, I didn’t know anyone that well. However, interacting with my peers allowed me to develop relationships that will last, such as Jack or furthering my friendship with Andrew. I think I need to stop worrying about what people will think of me, and instead know that people will accept me for my true self. I now understand that I need to live the life the way I want to live it, and not have my life dictated by others or what others might think about me. This trip shaped me in more ways than I could ever imagine. ~Cole
To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect on this trip.  I wasn’t nervous about helping the kids with their work.  I was nervous about how the kids would receive me.  CHC guys who had gone on this trip in the past had told me that the de LaSalle kids were challenging and difficult to work with.  Personally, I dreaded going to school on Monday.  I had the eighth grade, so most of the kids there were acting like typical teenagers and didn’t care about me being there.  To them I was just another immersion student.  I really had to work hard to get their approval. I saw this one girl sitting by herself, so I tried to talk to her and get her to open up.  Unfortunately, I was not able to get a very close relationship with her this week, however she surprisingly taught me a lot about myself.  This girl usually acted very serious, and didn’t take things lightly.  She was just quiet and seemed disinterested in everything.  Well, by Wednesday I realized that that is me.  I typically don’t say a lot, and usually have a bad attitude about things I don’t want to do.  If I don’t know a person well, I usually don’t say a lot to them and hope they go away.  I was there trying to build a relationship with this girl and help her, but she didn’t want anything to do with it.  It made me wonder how many people I push or have pushed away in my life.  This trip really made me self-examine and reflect more on the type of person I want to be.  It was a great trip and now I’m going to take home what I have learned about myself.  ~Stephen
A week of complete immersion, being away from my family, and disconnecting from my day to day life forced to me to become very reflective this week. I discovered the necessity to pause, think, and contemplate where I am going in my life. The children at De La Salle Blackfeet School helped me on this path of reflection as well. I was able to witness kindness and leadership in the students I assisted throughout the week. When a boy in my class swapped his premium hymnal for my tattered one because he wanted to “be a role model for the rest of the class”, I realized there are things I can do to lead by example and treat others with kindness. I will not forget the many different students I met this week. Specifically, I will not forget the persistency and leadership of a boy in the class I assisted. After seeing the potential in many of the students, I hate to see the lack of opportunity they are dealt. My time in Browning led me further in my goals of finding a passion to dedicate my energy and abilities toward. I know that I must continue to engage in new experiences and reflect on those experiences to become a better version of myself. ~Kyle
This week of complete community and being out of touch with my life at home has opened me up so much.  I grew in patience and compassion because of the students I interacted with at the de LaSalle Blackfeet School.  These fourth graders challenged me in every way and it was absolutely amazing how much I got out of it.  Trying to help teach these kids without giving them the answer was extremely challenging and a great test of patience, but it opened me up to be compassionate towards them.  Knowing their background and the community they lived in, helped me to understand that they will have trouble with learning and I was going to have trouble assisting them in school.  One of the toughest things was working with one of the fourth graders when he was completely reluctant to work.  I had to continuously put his pencil in his hand and repeatedly tell him to write letter by letter.  That challenged my patience greatly, but made me realize what their lives are like and how their community can affect these kids in the classroom.  Another challenge of patience was trying to teach one of the girls some math.  She was one of the sweetest kids there and really did try, but she just didn’t understand it.  It was challenging to see her disappointment, so I tried to stay extremely positive with her.  The most challenging thing was when the kid I spent the most time with told me at mass, after I told him I was leaving the next day, that he wouldn’t have a best friend to talk to anymore.  When we walked from class to class he made sure I was with him in line and he made sure to hold on to my arm and assure me that I was his best friend.  We spent recesses doing puzzles with each other and doing our laps together in gym class.  This was challenging because I knew I had to leave.  He taught me a lot about myself and he made a great impact on me. This trip also gave me the opportunity to have many great conversations including some with Mr. Bobak who helped spark a greater interest in me to explore the world and its beautifulness.  From seeing the stars in a completely different way to seeing the beautiful mountains, it has taught me that this world shouldn’t go unseen in one’s life.  My leadership grew this week and I was proud to have been with these guys on this trip.  Challenging each other and being in community together, laughing around the dinner table every night and working in the classrooms together are great memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. ~Jake
Although I have taken part in many service opportunities, this week challenged me the most out of any of my previous service experiences. I was chosen to work with the 8th grade. Unlike other trips where younger kids had enjoyed my presence right away, it took a while for me to get these students to like me. I continued to guide them in doing their work and challenging them to get better, but most of them had no motivation to do their assignments and wanted to give up. The one phrase I heard the most was “I don’t know” because when the teacher or I asked each of them a question, they chose not to think about it even if they knew the answer. This was very frustrating at first, but as the week went on and I thought about what I wanted to get out of it, I held myself to a standard that I would spark some change in the classroom. I chose to do this by lifting them up with encouragement and finding out as much as I could about them so I could complement their personalities with the hope that they would push themselves to work hard for me. One specific student wasn’t easy to get answers out of at first, but I discovered that she had an amazing and unique personality and the only thing holding her back from sharing it with others was her lack of confidence. The whole week I had tried to bring the class together by getting them to play games like basketball together instead of having cliques and leaving people to sit by themselves in a corner. This student asked me why I kept doing this and I told her I did it because I wanted to see everyone get along together so that they could support each other especially when they go to high school next year. I then asked her if she was looking forward to next year in a bigger environment and my heart sunk when she said that she was afraid that people would forget about her. I responded by telling her about how awesome she is and how people are missing out if they don’t accept who she is. While reflecting later that day, I realized that I saw myself in her in many ways. Often times I am afraid to express to others the things that distinguish me from them. I tend to fall into the habit of putting myself into a similar category. I also came to realize that a lot of times I lack the same confidence to act when I see a chance to help someone in need. Yesterday when we went back to say our goodbyes, she ran up to me and gave me a huge hug, and I strongly believe that I have taught her important things that she will remember for the rest of her life. This week I learned that I need to have the confidence to express to others my entire personality, especially my faith life, just as I pushed her to. Also, I have to strive to be there for people like her, so I may provide the positivity and encouragement that they need to reach their potential.  ~Sam
Over the course of the trip, I was able to adapt successfully to an environment way outside of my comfort zone, and I also forced myself into encountering new people and situations. While I initially felt more distant from the rest of the group, I quickly became comfortable with them and began to understand them better, which led me to participate and acclimate much better. By the end of the week, I feel like I have gotten to know everyone in the group on a deeply personal level, and I hope that my extensive participation has allowed them to say the same about me. I worked very hard to build new relationships that I normally wouldn't form, both in the classroom of DLSBS and in the bunkhouse, and I hope that our interactions had a personal impact on many of the people that I helped, because theirs certainly had one on me. Coming out of the trip, I will do my best to retain and remain conscious of all of the knowledge that I've gained over the last week, and to maintain the relationships among the group. I understand myself and my role in the world, both current and potential, a lot better after this trip, and I can't wait to see what I can do with everything that I have learned. ~Andrew