Maile Shelley ’21 Reflects Lasallian Values at the 2019 Young Lasallian Assembly

Maile Shelley '21The Young Lasallian Assembly (YLA), hosted by Saint Mary’s from June 23 through 28, teaches young people how to put the Lasallian values built into Saint Mary’s mission into action. The event was organized by the District of San Francisco New Orleans, part of the Lasallian Region of North America of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. More than 300 high school students spread out across campus while absorbing important lessons, making new friends, providing valuable service, and finding their role in Lasallian leadership. SMC’s Maile Shelley ’21, who attended the event when she was in high school, served as an impressive role model again this year, illustrating what it means to live a Lasallian life—starting as a student.

She remembers clearly the moment she first knew she wanted to attend Saint Mary’s.

“When I was going into my senior year of high school, there was a Lasallian student leaders’ program [like this one] at Saint Mary’s that I was nominated to go to by my school. I really got to see the community of Saint Mary’s. I had known about Saint Mary’s before, considering I went to a Lasallian high school [Christian Brothers in Sacramento]. The five core principles were kind of ingrained into my brain, but I got to be on the campus and surround myself with other student leaders. People on campus would come up and say hi to me. I could really see the sense of community. The experience really made me want to come to Saint Mary’s.”

The Young Lasallian Assembly held on campus lasted five days that were filled with more than 300 spirited young people. Students attended from Arizona, California, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, and the Distrito de México Norte. They engaged in service opportunities, educational sessions reflecting the themes of social justice, and Catholic social teaching. They experienced prayer and reflection sessions, and listened to other student leaders. After participating in the Assembly, Lasallian Youth were challenged to promote a culture of faith, service, and community in their home communities, and take up leadership roles on campus.

“The 300 participants were recommended from their respective high schools to participate in the Young Lasallian Assembly based upon a suggested profile,” said Brother Chris Patiño, FSC, director of vocation ministry for the Lasallian district of San Francisco New Orleans. “Participants possess a genuine openness to faith development and growth; have the capacity to catalyze change and be agents of change in their school communities; are open to serve others and exhibit the qualities of servant leadership; strive to model the five Core Principles in varying ways in their school communities and beyond; represent the diverse profile of their school communities in a variety of areas including but not limited to areas of involvement in the school community, gender, race, and socioeconomic background; are actively involved in the life of the school community along with students who are not as overtly involved; and are willing and able to commit to the preparatory and follow up components of this gathering,” added Brother Chris.

Shelley, along with Steven Silva ‘22 and students from other Lasallian colleges, served as “collegians,” college student volunteers who help organize, take care of small groups, and make sure students get a little rest. Between this event and another put on by the district, Shelley has attended four times: once as a high schooler and three times as a collegian.

“This year, I did a lot of forms and waivers, but [collegians] also serve as a liaison between moderator and students. We’re the middle ground; if the student has a problem, they come to us; if a moderator has a problem with a student, he comes to us as well. We also lead “energizers,” where we gather kids up on first day and lead games to help them get to know each other. We help facilitate small groups…. Sometimes, I led the discussion. It’s so fun being a collegian; we also do room checks like mini RAs.

“I loved the assembly. Everything went very smoothly; my small group and I bonded quickly; collegians worked well overall as a team. It was a big success, even though we didn’t get much sleep.”

This year’s YLA had a service aspect, where students left campus to work in the community.  “Carrie Davis [who works in Mission and Ministry] helped us plan the service day. We had 15 service groups across the Contra Costa area, including in Emeryville and the Monument Crisis Center in Concord,” Shelley said. The Crisis Center holds a special place in her heart, as she worked with them as a freshman in JCL 10 and all of sophomore year with the campus Lasallian Community. “They’re wonderful…. For this event, they had some students doing food distribution, helping with backpack distribution [the center prepares backpacks stuffed with student supplies]. And there was another group upstairs organizing.”

“Within the context of the 300-year anniversary of John Baptist de La Salle’s entry into eternal life, the gathering of the Young Lasallian Assembly encourages ways for students to embrace the five principles, and to recommit themselves to this wonderful mission,” said Brother Chris. “The service projects in the community allowed students to deepen their understanding of what it means to live the Lasallian mission.”

Keynote speakers at the assembly spoke to living out Lasallian values, including national Catholic speaker John Donahue-Grossman, who spoke about how to “Become a Loving Sign by Living the Story”; Co-Secretary for Lasallian Association for Mission in Rome Heather Ruple Gilson ’01 and Joseph Gilson, director of formation for Mission for the District of Ireland, Great Britain, and Malta; and Katie Prejean McGrady, an international speaker, educator, and author.

“We are very mindful that we are inviting young people to embrace a faith journey in action and community service. It’s beautiful to see how the students began to recognize the common story and the common ground, and realized that the other students and schools were much more similar that they are different,” said Brother Chris. “They learned that we share a common story as Lasallians, and that they are part of a bigger community. They saw the holistic picture of the experience of our Lasallian Catholic mission in action,” he added.

Shelley hopes the new Young Lasallians have benefited from the assembly as she did. “I hope they will take away a sense of community. We were only at the assembly for a week, but it was a chance for almost 300 students to come together and learn what makes the different high schools unique. [After attending YLA in high school,] I still have friends I keep in contact with all of the time. Some of the collegians as well I know from the experience; when we meet, we can pick up where we left off.

“I hope students get that sense of friendship and community; I hope they get a sense of passion and determination—not that it’s just a fun week. I hope they find the joy in all the things they experience.”

Shelley, a triplet with two brothers, is devoted to utilizing her Lasallian values. “Last year, I lived in the Lasallian Living Community on campus, which was a chance to live out the five core principles within that community. It’s one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had. I’ve decided to be a mentor for the Lasallian kids; this year, I’ll be an RA.”

“Majoring in Justice, Communication, and Leadership has also helped me live the five principles, has given me a chance to go out into the community and see, interact with people. Doing service off campus has helped me to open my eyes and talk to people, find out their lived experiences and see what makes them unique.”

Shelley isn’t sitting out summer vacation, either.  She is an intern for the state senate photographer. “I learn how to shoot in manual; I take pictures on the senate floor; I edit photos, frame, and deliver them. The internship really brought me out of my comfort zone because I had to talk to senators I did not know, but it has greatly improved my confidence in speaking with people and with using a camera. It’s a fantastic internship!”

Shelley is not entirely sure what she wants to do after college, but “I’m leaning toward becoming part of Lasallian Volunteers, in whatever aspect I can. I know I want to help people; maybe work in the Monument Crisis Center or a school. I’ve been working with kids my whole life; it’s something I deeply care about.”