The precious gifts of reflection and discernment are easily ignored or not taken seriously in our busy culture. At times, we find ourselves wandering from our chosen path or finding distractions to fill a spiritual void. Two recent events have steered the Club into a reflective mode: Pope Francis’ address in Manila and Fr. Carmine’s death. Each event is a true gift for all Salesians, lay and professed.
Board President Alex Tucciarone was moved by Pope Francis’ address in Manila, “We need to see each child as a god to be welcomed, cherished and protected… and we need to care for our young people, not allowing them to be robbed of hope and condemned to a life on the streets.” Alex was wondering whether the ministry being done in Boyle Heights was good enough, are we accomplishing Don Bosco’s mission? The powerful words from Pope Francis reminded Alex the Salesians are doing exactly what we are called to be in Boyle Heights: Don Bosco in today’s world.
The second event was the memorial of Fr. Carmine Vairo and the reflections on his deep love for the Club. Carmine was a strong and dedicated son of Don Bosco, giving his every breath for the young people. His tireless ministerial efforts and healthy obedience remind us of how to be modern Don Boscos. It is a blessing that ‘the young knew they were loved’ when Carmine was near.
The Club interacts with a community where numerous crises impact the dignity of life: the majority of families live below the poverty level, the high school dropout rate is 64% and the area is home to many violent gangs.
Club membership has jumped to over 3,800 students from 2,200. There are amazing programs in 5 locations happening every day. There is a safer environment through remodeled Club facilities. The dedicated Club staff has amazingly learned the practice of Don Bosco’s system without formal training or experience. The Club strives to ensure that every member knows that they are important and loved.
But are we doing enough?
No, we are not doing enough. We are called to a “radical” way of living out our faith. Mother Teresa and Don Bosco were obviously on fire with God’s love yet their unquenchable desire to share this love with the most needy reignited their passion daily. Pope Francis is calling us into that same action to serve and protect the young. We can never be satisfied with “good enough” when it comes to serving the young of Boyle Heights.
Filling the shoes of the giants is not easy: Fr. Shafer, Fr. Carmine, Don Bosco, Mother Teresa. Loving our neighbor as God has loved us, unconditionally and tirelessly, is not easy, either. Let us serve the young through our actions every moment we live.
The Club strives to continually upgrade and improve not only the educational and recreational services for our kids, but the facilities. This year started off with the Wabash site’s Game Room.
The first of many projects is to replace and upgrade existing equipment. First on the list was a donated classic pool table, built in 1909, which was refinished with new veldt and pockets. This donation inspired the Salesian Old Boys to step up and re-veldt and repair a billiards and a second pool table.
The second major donation came from the Los Angeles Lions Club; two smart TV’s and XBox 360s. These will enable the Club to provide interactive exercise, dance, and educational games to the kids. The Xbox’s Kinect camera allows the kids to physically participate in the games by following the dance moves or exercises on the TVs.
The third donation of six new computers came from the Watts/Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club. These new computers have enabled the Club to upgrade its administrative functions.
The Club’s goal is to ensure that the kids get the best from the Club. This includes not only education, music, art, humane education, sports, or table games, but the facility and equipment. A safe and healthy environment with the best equipment allows the kids to feel pride of ownership of their Club.
It was a joyous holiday celebration as more than 200 kids danced, played, and shared an afternoon of fun and friendship at Salesian’s annual Christmas party in December!
Club members were treated to a live DJ set, arts and crafts activities, and games of dodgeball and basketball. After working up an appetite, the kids enjoyed a lunch of tamales and champurrado before the big event – a meet and greet with Santa Claus himself, who presented each with high-quality, premium brand gifts!
The Club thanks our staff members and volunteers, our Keystone teen leadership group, our donors and supporters, and the community of Boyle Heights for the means to provide our kids with another wonderful Christmas celebration!
The Club joined forces with i.am.angel Foundation and Hacker Fund to sponsor its first code event as an integral part of what the Club offers our students everyday: an opportunity for meaningful growth.
Some 25 technology mentors (aka, professional hackers) gathered together wearing their one-piece pajamas, costume hats, and hoodies for the 24-hour event at the Club in Boyle Heights. The 75 participating LAUSD high school students did not attend the event to get a job, accomplish a school project, or do service hours. They left the comfort of their homes during Christmas vacation to learn from experts, network with other students, experience new technology, create useful projects, and, if needed, sleep on the hardwood floor of the gym.
Students learned about 3D printing through creating a project using CAD (computer aided design), sending the data to one of the six available 3D printers, setting up the material, and then watching their creations being built before their eyes. Students built their own web pages and created apps with the guidance of the mentors. Whether engineering high tech Christmas ornaments or programming for Oculus Rift (yes, there were 4 sets of these virtual reality headsets!), the students had the opportunity to learn and experience technology as creators and not mere consumers.
“Here at the Club,” says Director Br. Tom, “we get excited about these events because it really transforms students’ lives. Most students have never heard of a coding event and now they are part of a bigger movement around technology.” Inspiring young people to do great things is the mission of the Club. The Club is blessed with such an incredible opportunity to inspire students to transform the world through technology. Don Bosco would be proud of these students!!
Local Catholic middle school teams faced off in the Club’s annual Christmas Challenge basketball tournament earlier this month. The tournament is a major program for the Club and raises funds for the members of our Keystone leadership group.
Keystone consists of high school kids who participate in the Club’s programs by taking an active role in assisting the staff and younger kids. The group also provides the Club with volunteers for summer camp. Proceeds from the tournament go to fund college campus tours and trips to their annual conference.
The Tournament provides the local Catholic schools the opportunity to play in a well-organized basketball competition that accommodates both boys and girls. It is the only middle school tournament with a program for girls.
The tournament enabled over 300 kids to join in the fun, and will help provide traveling expenses for 30+ teens.
The Club strives to provide opportunities for the community, encouraging positive competitive sports, raising funds for high school kids to explore education, and bringing parents together in a positive environment.
Special thanks to Fr. Jesse at St Mary’s for allowing parents to park in the Church’s lot and Mr. Sam Robles for use of the Salesian High School gym.
In a dark climate surrounding protests, our Bernstein STEM students gathered at LAUSD headquarters, poised to fight for their rights to a dignified education. This tiny protest organized by their teacher Ms. Gillian Claycomb, however, has a light at the end of the tunnel, all due to the courageous actions of a small band of underprivileged students.
During the public comment section of this week’s LAUSD Board meeting, three students from local high schools painted an ugly portrait of their educational experience: classes size of 40 - 50, inexperienced teachers, college centers with no counselors, libraries with no librarians, 8 students gathered around a table designed for two, iPads without any content or use, etc. Despite recent scandals LAUSD is facing, Superintendent Ramon Cortines, paid careful attention to the students’ protest.
Bernstein STEM students courageously stood at the podium demanding their dignity, expecting to be ignored or patronized by a room full of Ph.D.’s. Our 20 students, however, were buzzing with excitement with the caring and warm outcome, not quite fully comprehending the significance of their simple protest for all underprivileged students in LAUSD.
Mr. Cortines demanded the three presenters return to the podium, thanking them for speaking up and insisting on setting up a meeting before Christmas to solve these problems.
This event brings a sense of deeper meaning to the underprivileged students of LAUSD: they are actively engaged in the pursuit of a dignified life. It also reminds us to act altruistically like Mr. Cortines and Don Bosco: listening and responding to the cries of the young.
Late last month, our country was piling turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and more onto plates that were hopefully strong enough to survive when we went back for seconds. Our nation’s traditional feast symbolizes an abundant lifestyle in which most of us live. For this abundance, we simply give thanks to God.
The Club held its annual Thanksgiving dinner for the members and their families, providing amazing food served by staff and talented volunteers. St. Dominic Savio youth group joined in our celebration and several parishioners donated to the feast. We are blessed.
The Los Angeles Chinese Lions Club demonstrated their generosity at the Wabash location supplying the entire meal, cooked to perfection. The gracious group of dedicated people were highly organized and happily at the service of our families. We are blessed.
Though there was no school the day before Thanksgiving, the Club was packed with over 100 student volunteers. Students were joined by cheerleaders, hip-hop dance teams, and leadership groups from Roosevelt High School to help our mostly immigrant community celebrate our national day of giving thanks . We are blessed.
The abundant blessing we experience everyday at the Club is the same Don Bosco had at the oratory: the pure generosity of young people helping others. Whether it be tutoring math or serving a festive meal, our students are amazingly generous. We are blessed, abundantly.