Service assembly opens students' hearts to service to others

“My overall goal in life is to be remembered for my actions, not only my words,” said junior Valerie Koch during her presentation at VASJ’s service assembly.

Service is an integral aspect of VASJ’s identity and is one of the core values of educating in the Ursuline and Marianist traditions.

Each year, VASJ holds a service assembly to demonstrate to the students the importance of service to others and give examples of the various ways students can get involved in the community.

“One of the values we stress here to our students is the importance of giving back, or ‘paying it forward’ as the saying goes,” says VASJ Principal David Csank.

“The service assembly is an excellent way for the students of VASJ to learn about the many opportunities that are out there, and that they not only can make a difference, but that we as Christians are called to make a difference,” Csank adds.

While each student at VASJ is required to complete service hours in order to graduate, many students go above and beyond the hours needed, nearly doubling the mandatory amount.

For VASJ Campus Minister Jill Latkovich, the service assembly is about striking a chord with each of the students, connecting with them in some way and inspiring them to get involved with service opportunities in the community.

“My hope is that students will receive some type of inspiration to try things they’ve never tried before and that service will become a part of their life - something that they enjoy doing, not something that they have to do,” Latkovich says.

Taking place the day after the anniversary of September 11, the assembly opened with Latkovich paying tribute to the heroes of that day.

“On September 11, 2001, and all the days following, the world became witnesses to incredible acts of courage and bravery, of love and of service to others,” says Latkovich. “Today’s service assembly is about what you can do to make a difference in your world as those heroes did. Hopefully you will be inspired by the action of those in our community to become heroes also.”

In years past, the service assembly functioned like a tradeshow in which students walked around and learned about volunteer roles at various nonprofit organizations. This year, Latkovich wanted to do things a little differently.

Instead of representatives from the nonprofit organizations addressing the students, Latkovich decided to let students who have actually volunteered at the organizations do the talking.

“I took a different approach this year,” says Latkovich. “Kids like hearing from each other and they were really listening to the presentations.”

A group of students gave PowerPoint presentations to the student body about their experiences doing service at local nonprofit organizations – each presentation focusing on a different organization.

Latkovich’s new approach was well received by the students as well as members of the faculty and staff. The presentations were powerful and moving and the students were fully engaged and attentive as they listened to their classmates explain the importance of getting involved and making a difference in the lives of others.

Valerie Koch ’15 has found her experiences volunteering at Euclid Hospital to be rewarding and beneficial.

“I feel that I am making a difference and having an impact on the lives of others by keeping patients company,” says Koch ’15. “Volunteering has inspired me to work in the medical field someday. It has taught me that it is the little conversations and smiles that can truly make someone’s day.”

View Valerie Koch’s PowerPoint presentation here

Morgan Adrine '16 shares her experiences volunteering at the Cleveland APL.

Sophomore Morgan Adrine spoke of her involvement at the Cleveland Animal Protective League (APL) in which she not only gained valuable work experience, learning how to use a time-clock system and the importance of arriving to work on time, but she also had the opportunity to foster two young puppies at her home until they were old enough to be adopted.

View Morgan Adrine’s PowerPoint presentation here.

Learning the importance of showing compassion for families going through difficult times was one of the most valuable aspects of junior Alison Sukys’ experience volunteering at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital.

“The greatest reward I got out of volunteering was the appreciation some patients had just when I smiled at them or asked them how they were doing,” Sukys says. “During tough times families need support, even in the smallest amounts.”

View Alison Sukys' PowerPoint presentation here.

Sophomore John Henry Posey spoke of his involvement in the 2013 Musical Alliance Summer Honors Band program, held at Borromeo School of Pastoral Leadership in Wickliffe.

His role was to assist in teaching students notes and rhythm. For Posey, assisting at the summer camp meant more than just fulfilling a school requirement.

“It was not just about service hours but about the quality of my service,” Posey says.

View John Henry Posey’s PowerPoint presentation here.

Also speaking about volunteering at a summer camps was sophomore Aysia Kemp. Kemp shared with the student body her experiences volunteering at New Avenues to Independence summer camp at Broadmoor School, a school for students who have been diagnosed with disabilities and/or developmental delays.

“As a volunteer, we have an important job,” says Kemp '16. “Our main priority is to help out the staff to make their day easier. While doing that, an amazing experience that you will never forget happens each day. The children are delighted that you are there and you will grow to love them the more time you spend with them.”

View Aysia Kemp’s PowerPoint presentation here.

Shea Smith ’15, Maggie Boru ’16 and Jasmine Toney ’16 spoke of their experiences volunteering for Youth Challenge, an organization assisting kids with physical disabilities.

“Service is very important,” Smith says. “It is a time to learn and grow while helping in the community.”

View Shea Smith’s PowerPoint presentation here.

In addition to hearing from their peers, VASJ students also heard a presentation from new religion teacher Patrick Preto who spoke of his involvement in service during his high school career.

“Service changes you,” says religion teacher Patrick Preto. “If you can at least wear the mask of Christ when you serve, I can promise you that you will find yourself a better person.

Eventually you will find that you care more about these strangers than you thought you could.”

It is the transformation that takes place within oneself while helping others that makes service such an integral part of the VASJ experience.


Morgan Adrine '16, Alison Sukys '15, Valerie Koch '15, John Henry Posey '16 and
religion teacher Patrick Preto pose for a picture after the assembly.