La Salle University celebrated its 150th anniversary on Wednesday. The basketball team also won beat Boise State in March Madness, an opportunity the school hasn’t had in something like 25 years.
I don’t care about sports. Never did. But yesterday, with all the buzz in the world about my alma mater, I couldn’t help but feel excited. When I saw my two of my oldest and dearest friends at my hometown gas station –Lauren and Kevin, who met in high school, went to La Salle, convinced me to go to La Salle, and just got married –I realized for the first time how proud I am to be a graduate from that school.
La Salle made it okay for me to care. I had spent my previous teen years investing my overbearing maternal energies into emotionally-disheveled high school boys with guitars. Now I had places to write and service trips to apply to, University Ministry and Service groups to join – and yes, emotionally-disheveled college boys with guitars to kiss – but there was a whole new world at that school, and a whole city outside the school to explore.
It was the first time outside of my home that I was really encouraged to take ownership of my world and my life. If I didn’t like something, I could change it. I could help improve my environment. I wasn’t sure how to start as a nervous freshman, but when Rob Kirkner, a sophomore on my floor, pushed me to join Project Appalachia, I felt like I was starting something incredible. And that feeling hasn’t stopped.
There’s really no way for me to write this without sounding hokey. But at the core of La Salle, though sometimes admittedly it can be hard to see, is a school based on creating generations of people who want to make the world a better place for everyone – and you can’t say that about very many institutions. It’s a bit of an anomaly because this school has created a whole offshoot of alums who have moved on to professional service work, – they’ve grown into Lasallians in many respects, but may never be able to financially support the establishment from whence they came (but that’s what the business school is for, right?). Lasallians are people who fundraise for good causes in their spare time, are friendly to strangers and hold the door for passerby. And this is the kind of person I want to be for the rest of my life.
Through my four years of college, I met some of the most upstanding and excellent people I could have ever hoped to meet. Many of my closest friends coordinated service trips, ran student groups, joined cancer walks and hunger runs. They’ve gone on to run and aid social services across the world, became teachers, started families moved into graduate schools so they can run future projects or political campaigns to try to fashion some change in this world, are active in their local communities.
These people are beyond amazing, and yet they still have time to make me feel proud of myself and what I’ve wandered off to do. There have been over half a dozen instances where I find an e-mail or a Facebook message from an old friend or acquaintance from school who has stumbled upon this blog or heard I was farming and wanted to wish me luck and share their hopes for success. Some of my professors have been following my adventures and offer the most heartening well-wishes for me. La Salle’s alumni magazine and one of my great friends ran an article (albeit with some outrageously embarrassing photos) about my journey into farming. Frank Cervone, my former employer and a La Salle grad himself, helped me see that the path to your destiny isn’t always clear, and he sent me from his offices with his blessing and a box of gardening tools for my crazy farm dreams. The guy I dated for four years still continues to be my biggest sidelines fan, and he is preparing to start his own quest to save the city, and I couldn’t be prouder.
These are people who are excited to be a part of their community, whether it be as a Lasallian or a Philadelphian or simply just a person making the smallest difference in the world. These are the people who keep me moving forward when I get scared, remind me of my mission and who make me believe that I can really do this. They are the ones who taught me how to be a courteous neighbor, an enthusiastic motivator, a wannabe game-changer, a steward of the earth. They greenlit this farm before I knew what I wanted to do. And now that I know, when I hear the name of my school – whether it’s in some morning sports broadcast, a hike gone amok or in regards to its anniversary, I feel nothing but gratitude for the opportuitnies I had and continue to have because of it. I finally get that freshmen lanyard. I am La Salle.