Pilots lend volunteer efforts to great causes

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DETROIT (March 15, 2019) – A few dozen students from De La Salle Collegiate had the opportunity to volunteer with two marvelous organizations on Friday.

Students in the school’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme worked with Brilliant Detroit on a neighborhood project, while lacrosse players helped students with special needs participate in games at Keith Bovenschen School in Warren.

The IB students – all juniors – visited a house on Eastburn Street across from Wish Egan Field on Detroit’s northeast side. There, they cleaned up the yard and garage, trimmed trees, and prepped the exterior by scrapping old, loose paint off the wood eaves over the side door.

There was a part during the morning when the boys also engaged in meaningful dialogue centered on impacting communities and making social change.

“When you come and volunteer with us we try to have a significant service-learning component,” said Mara Steinitz, a fellow with Repair the World, a key partner in Brilliant Detroit’s efforts to revitalize neighborhoods.

“They’re doing so much work with the physical environment of the house,” she said, “we’re really trying to get them thinking about what a kid-success environment looks like and how they can be a part of that.”

During the planned discussion, Steinitz challenged the De La Salle students – Jacob Cosart, Adam Zepp, Frank Viviano, Anthony Cusumano, Anthony Jacobs, Andrew Raphtis, Deven Sheth, Justin Ambris, Jarod Amparo, Joey Opolski, Noah Cole, Ryan Drake, Michael Tomenello, Saimer Kiryakoza, and Ty Kowalski – to return to the house in the future to assist neighborhood children with sports or to become a mentor.

“From what they demonstrated today I think they’re more than capable of doing that,” Steinitz said. “I would definitely work with them again.”

As the IB students were finishing up their outdoor projects, lacrosse coach Zach Issa and 19 players were three miles north up Schoenherr Road helping with a Special Olympics event for students, aged 3-26, with moderate to severe cognitive impairments.

The volunteer opportunity was made possible through De La Salle’s Campus Ministry Department.

“We really believe in community service and service to others,” Issa said. “It was really important that our kids understood the blessings that they have at De La Salle, especially being able to stand on two feet and play lacrosse. I think this opportunity was really unique to our program in the sense that we have a lot of gentlemen who are able to do things like this without feeling hesitation. This is a representation of not only our program, but of our school.”

The student athletes who volunteered Friday at Bovenschen were Ken Oakes, Austin Cooley, Alex Badalamenti, Devon Baker, Kyle Zammit, Jack Bucci, Wayne Jannette, Devin McLean, Tony Serra, Nick Hernandez, Evan Vaillancourt, Nick Lize, Ethan Croft, KeShawn Simmons, Troy Brunsman, Jacob Morphew, Anthony Hayes, Leonardo Purchiaroni, and Andrew Matt.

Bovenschen School is one of the Macomb Intermediate School District’s Center Program Schools, currently serving 320 students from southern Macomb County.

Issa said his expectations were simple: he wanted his players to represent the all-boys Catholic school as find young gentlemen. But what he saw literally brought the coach to tears.

“When I got here, I expected that we would act and conduct ourselves like La Salle men,” he said. “But the way these guys made this an environment that they embraced and made a fun event for the kids. This place was rockin’ with kids and the looks on their faces. … They were so excited to see guys like Tony and Evan and Devon. Just the genuine excitement that they had. It was something they didn’t have when we first got here. So I feel like we really helped bring the energy back to them today.

“I’m an emotional guy, I’m not going to lie. I was in the corner shedding tears with Kyle Zammit. We were so proud to see that our kids not only came here, they embraced it and ran with it. … They were cheering the kids on and getting them to do chants. They really got these kids animated.

“That’s what De La Salle is at the end of the day. We don’t go through motions on anything.”

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