Saint Mary's To Open New Lasallian Living-learning Community

A Lasallian Community will live together on the first floor of Becket Hall during the 2006-07 school year after a successful pilot project this year that brought together 12 students for service opportunities, twice-weekly meetings and community nights.

Brother Michael Sanderl calls the residential community a natural for Saint Mary's because of the College's commitment to the Lasallian tradition of social justice and outreach.

Along with living in a residence hall together, the community will study the life and spirituality of Saint John Baptist de La Salle, learn about faith, prayer and spiritual practice, and participate in regular community nights and service teams. Brother Michael, who is working with Molleen Dupree, assistant director of residential service-learning, on the community, said students have been enthusiastic about it.

"We've generated a list of 100 students we think would be interested in it," Brother Michael said. More than two dozen students have attended informational meetings about the community, which will have 18 students living in three six-person suites in Becket Hall.

A welcoming place

"We talk about them as participants in a Lasallian Community, not members, so it's not exclusive," Brother Michael said. "It's a commitment to this program and the people you'll be living with, but we want the door to swing out frequently and widely so students are involved with the rest of the campus.

"The door at the end of the day swings back into the community," he continued. "When they go home to Becket, they're going to be living with people who share their values and principles, and they can bring others into it so students have a sense that the Lasallian Community is a welcoming place."

Daniella Maltifano, a 19-year-old sophomore, participated in the pilot project this year. The 12 students in the program did not live together, but they formed a strong bond through their regular meetings and service work twice a week at the LEO Center in Oakland. LEO is an acronym for Lasallian Educational Opportunities, and the center is a place where volunteers tutor and mentor young students.

"It was a really fun opportunity," Maltifano said. "I love going out and helping the students at the LEO Center, but I also love the community we have and how we've grown as a class."

Maltifano said she also enjoyed guest speakers who addressed the group, and she is eagerly anticipating a visit by George Adrian Van Grieken, who wrote Touching the Hearts of Students: Characteristics of Lasallian Schools.

A "great experience"

Although the Lasallian Community offers a quarter-credit, Maltifano said "no one was taking it for the credit. Everyone was taking it for the experience. It was such a great experience to be able to have these friends."

Maltifano said she cannot be in Lasallian Community next year because she will spend her junior year abroad in Argentina and South Africa. Brother Michael said the community will be geared mostly to sophomores partly because Maltifano's plans are similar to those of many juniors and seniors.

"We find that the sophomore year is the year that students are open to this kind of opportunity," he said. "Juniors and seniors have their lives, they know who they are, what their place is. Freshmen aren't here yet. Sophomores are in that healthy, positive middle ground that's the best window of opportunity."

Applications can be picked up in various places around campus, including the Office of Student Life, and must be submitted to that office by 4 pm on March 1. For more information, call Brother Michael at (925) 631-8154 or Molleen Dupree at (925) 631-4015.

--Erin Hallissy
Office of College Communications