Saying goodbye to Cristo Rey and my year of service

This article appears in the Notes from the Field feature series. View the full series.
The 2014-2015 volunteers (minus one) at the Class of 2016's graduation. From left: Kia, Dom, Nicole, me, and Sarah. Sophie is the missing volunteer. (Provided photo)

Boston, Massachusetts — Notes from the Field includes reports from young women volunteering in ministries of Catholic sisters. A partnership with Catholic Volunteer Network, the project began in the summer of 2015 This is our third round of bloggers: Brenna Neimanis is a Good Shepherd Volunteer at a juvenile justice residential detention facility serving adolescent girls in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Kerry DiNardo is a Notre Dame Mission Volunteer AmeriCorps member serving at a Cristo Rey school in Boston.

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The last day of the 2015-2016 school year, June 17, was also the last day of my two years as a volunteer at Cristo Rey Boston High School. It came quicker than I thought possible.

I spent the last couple of weeks completing the "lasts" of my volunteer duties at school: proctoring my last study block, serving breakfast for the last time, having lunch with my junior students for the last time.

I said goodbye to my beloved students, as I am preparing to move back to Philadelphia after two years in Boston. I know I will be back to visit, but of course, it won't be the same as being with them every day. I'm excited to be the college mentor for two of my students, so I will be keeping in touch with them and helping them throughout the college process.

The Wednesday after school ended, the faculty and staff met at school for a farewell breakfast. One student's mother put together an amazing spread of bagels, coffee, pastries, fruit and juice. As we gathered in a classroom and ate, the faculty and staff members who will not return next year were acknowledged by the colleagues they worked most closely with. It was beautiful to hear positive words about people who put so much of themselves into the community.

After this, we received three note cards. On the first, we wrote what we were thankful for in the Cristo Rey Boston community. On the other two, we wrote to the people sitting to our left and right and what we were thankful to them for. Then, we read our community thank-you notes aloud and presented the other cards to the people we wrote to.

One of the science teachers at the school introduced the activity. He is retiring after an amazing 42-year career at Cristo Rey Boston High School (and North Cambridge Catholic High School, as Cristo Rey Boston used to be called). The previous Friday, there was a surprise retirement party for him, and his family and other co-workers from throughout his career surprised him at the end of our last-day-of-school bowling party.

He expressed such gratitude for the love and support he has received from the community. He also urged everyone to put family first. In his experience, he said, there was never a time that others didn't step up when people had to be out for family reasons, and it was always done without a question or second thought. This was a sentiment echoed throughout the adults as we all said what we were thankful for.

Each member of the faculty and staff leaving at the end of the year received his or her own diploma. (Provided photo)

Again and again, people were thankful for the fact that everyone at Cristo Rey Boston lives the mission. Everyone shows up to work every day, no matter how tired they are, and brings their best selves for the students. It is always students first.

When I wrote my thanks to the community, I wrote that I was thankful for the realness of the Cristo Rey Boston community. We are open and honest about both the hardships and beauty of what happens in the school. I am thankful for the high expectations we hold for ourselves, which shows how we want the best for the students in all aspects of what we do. I am thankful for the love, support and humor of the adult community through all of this. They help put things in perspective after a particularly long day. Kids are kids, and they don't always express themselves in the best way, but we need to trust that one day — most likely a day when we are not there — it will all click for them. I am especially thankful for the adults who help us remember to be gentle with ourselves and our colleagues.

Cristo Rey Boston is a one-of-a-kind community, which is evident through the relationships I have cultivated with my co-workers over the last two years. They have become like family. They challenge me, inspire me and always make me want to be a better person.

[Kerry DiNardo is a Notre Dame Mission Volunteer AmeriCorps member in her second year of service at Cristo Rey Boston High School, where she works in the Student Life Office.]

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