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It's a Lasallian Life


So I’m just going to say it. I use facebook. I am a 37-year-old, married-with-two-kids Catholic high school educator and I use facebook. I am glad I do because were it not for facebook, I would have missed an article in the Eugene Register Guard that a friend and fellow UO alum posted.

The article was about Ganas, a middle school tutoring program started in 1996 by my college advisor and a student organization at the University of Oregon, of which I was a part. It evolved out of a shared desire to bust open the doors of higher education to underserved and marginalized students in our own backyard. That experience of being a tutor and mentor to 7th and 8th grade Latino students left an indelible mark on me - influencing so much of who I am and what I believe about access and equity in education.

Fast forward fifteen years and here I am at La Salle Prep, leading our San Miguel Scholars Program, moderating our new Multicultural Student Alliance, coordinating academic support for struggling students, and chaperoning students on our border immersion trip to Arizona. I haven’t changed that much, have I?

I work at La Salle Prep because of its commitment to those fundamental ideas of access and equity. They are two hallmarks of a Lasallian education that make me proud to work here and keep me driving through the rain from Salem every day. I believe that our students are better for having experienced our charism, for being shepherded through young adulthood by our teachers as big brothers and sisters, and for succeeding in our college prep education.

You see, despite the benefits of technological advances, the omnipresence of social networking, and all of the research on what defines good teaching and learning, I believe it is the mentoring relationship between me and my students – a relationship built on trust and honesty – that most impacts the young people entrusted to my care. It’s the same kind of relationship I sought to develop with my mentees at Kennedy Middle School 15 years ago.

Posted by on Wednesday February 29, 2012 at 07:10PM
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The second paragraph of our mission statement asserts: “La Salle optimizes financial and academic accessibility for students, especially the underserved, who desire a rigorous and relevant education preparing them for college and life.”

It sounds great.  Do we live up to it?  Let’s review the 2011-12 school year:

Financial accessibility?  Over 51% of our student body (322 students) receive an average of $4,450 in financial assistance, totaling $1.4 million, an all-time high at La Salle Prep.

Academic accessibility?  The new Signum Fidei program has “widened the door” of access, allowing students with diagnosed learning differences to become an integral part of the La Salle Prep community. This innovative program, built specifically to meet the individual needs of each student, helps these specialized learners reach their full potential. There are currently eight students in the inaugural Signum Fidei Class of 2016. We plan to welcome an additional 12 students each year going forward; students that would otherwise not have access to a Lasallian education.

Especially the underserved?  The financially “underserved,” based on Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program guidelines, represent 9% of our student body, or 57 students.  All 57 students receive nearly full tuition assistance and would not be able to attend La Salle Prep without this support.

I believe La Salle Prep lives up to its Lasallian mission of “access” and we are committed to “widening the door” even further. Through continued innovations in financial assistance and academic programming, La Salle Prep continues to move forward.

We thank our generous benefactors, loyal alumni, dedicated faculty and staff, and committed families for their countless contributions helping us live out our mission each and every school year. We appreciate your faithful support as we strive to continually improve the excellent educational community at La Salle Catholic College Prep.

Posted by Matthew Winningham on Tuesday February 14, 2012 at 10:00AM
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I’m intrigued with words, conversation, and language; how they link together to build relationship, create mood, and set culture. I don’t think I realized how much I was attracted to words until I began collecting words . . . literally.

On top of my desk, I have a dish full of stones that are engraved with powerful words. At home, I have pieces of art which present phrases or thoughts. I’m fascinated with innovative logos and graphics that artfully display a word to powerfully relay the impact of that word.

I recently read a column in the Portland Business Journal by a guest columnist, Greg Bell, founder ofPor tland’s Water the Bamboo Center for Leadership, in which he examined the power of language (words) in shaping an organization. He suggested “one way to determine an organization’s culture is to listen to how people talk to each other about each other and how they talk about people who are not there.” He stated his belief that organizations are determined one conversation at a time.

I believe that, too. I think it demonstrates what we believe as a Lasallian community.

I listened and noted carefully the words of our school one day last week. The first words that were spoken were in prayer. During morning announcements, we called out members of our community celebrating birthdays, congratulated the performance of student athletes, and applauded the accomplishments of the speech team. We invited people to participate in a service immersion opportunity.

During a meeting in the board room later in the day, wall art, highlighted with a quote from St. John Baptist de La Salle, reminded me that the greatest miracle we can perform is to be big brothers and big sisters to our students.

At lunch, our French teacher relayed a wonderful conversation she had overheard as one of her students listed the qualities that he thought made his friend “especially cool.”

At the end of the day, I walked out of the main doors of the school into a windy rainy evening right past a bronze plaque with words reminding me that I was in the holy presence of God.

I think Mr. Bell is right. Culture is created by words, by language and by conversations. This place is confirming, celebratory, and holy. No wonder I love words.

Posted by Denise Jones on Wednesday February 1, 2012 at 04:08PM
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What it means to be a La Salle alumnus

In preparation for a talk I was giving at La Salle about vocations, I thought it might be fun to channel my high school self. I stumbled across the vault for La Salle’s records looking for any piece of high school "me" I could find. It only took a matter of minutes to find "Raines, Elizabeth Anne" in the file cabinet.

As if I had found a lost treasure, I excitedly pawed through pictures of myself, grades, absences, many tardy slips, immunization forms, drivers' ed information, and a statement in my handwriting about why I chose to attend La Salle. I could not believe that this place had kept so much of me, safely filed away. It made me start to think about what it meant to be an alumnus of this school.

To be an alumnus of La Salle means that you are remembered. You are a part of the daily fabric of this school and community. You are talked about, referenced and valued. Your teen life has been documented not only in files, but in teachers’ memories, imprinted on the bricks against which you played dodge ball and scratched on the cool tiles that line the main hallway. Most importantly, though, to be an alumnus of La Salle means that you are loved.

If you ever feel the urge to reconnect with your high school self, you are invited to return to your La Salle family. Come have lunch in the delicious cafeteria, take a tour of campus, and sign your name on the alumni wall. To schedule, please contact me at You might even be so lucky as to rediscover a piece of who you were.

Posted by Liz Raines in Believe, Education, Student Dignity, Catholic Education, Ethics, Homecoming on Tuesday January 24, 2012 at 12:37PM
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I believe in living our strengths

I don’t usually use this forum to recommend books, but the one I am currently reading, actually studying, seems so perfect that I want to at least mention it.

Last week was Vocations Week at La Salle Prep. Each day, the morning prayer announcement opened with a reflection from a staff member sharing an experience, a relationship, or even a single decision that had been instrumental in leading to his/her vocation. AtLa Salle, it is our hope that all students begin an intentional discernment of their vocation. We want them to come to understand their unique talents; consider their passions; understand their unique place in the world.

As I listened each day to the different paths staff members took to arrive at La Salle, I couldn’t help reflecting on what I am learning through an incredible book called Living Your Strengths. As part of a Professional Learning Team, my colleagues and I are researching teamwork, how people can work together to form an effective partnership that embraces all of our unique talents. Our research led us to Living Your Strengths, by Albert Winseman, Donald Clifton, and Curt Liesveld. The authors’ objective is to assist readers to discover their God-given talents and, in so doing, “harness the power of their innate gifts.”

In discovering our talents and those of our colleagues, we intentionally recognize the range of gifts and ultimately the contribution of each individual (Value the Individual). We understand there are several approaches to our work, dependant upon our respective talents (Respect All Persons), and ultimately our best work is delivered by our unique contributions (Push Your Limits). 

Living Your Strengths appears to be fundamentally Lasallian in its philosophy and practice. I guess we’re never too old to pursue our vocation . . . or too young. Perhaps that is what living our faith is all about. 

Posted by Denise Jones in Believe, Education, Student Dignity, Read, Teachers, Catholic Education, Ethics on Tuesday January 17, 2012 at 01:39PM
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