Student Reflections: Alex Toner ’19

Junior Alex Toner reflects on his experiences as part of St. John’s French exchange program with La Salle Lille, a K-12 Lasallian school in Lille, France.
Throughout my time at St. John’s, I've learned many things about our school's founder and what it means to have a Lasallian education. It wasn't until this past spring break, when I visited France on an exchange trip, that I was able to fully see the legacy that La Salle has left on our community and on the world as a whole.
As part of the trip, I attended a Lasallian school with my exchange student and was able to take part in a new expression of Lasallian education. Although the two schools are literally thousands of miles apart, they share the same core values that St. John Baptist de La Salle hoped to implement when founding his first schools. The importance of a quality education in an inclusive community that respects all people was apparent all throughout the school, and it almost felt like I was back at SJC. 
A similarly important part of the trip was visiting Reims in an attempt to put ourselves in the shoes of our founder. There, we visited La Salle's childhood home and were given a tour by one of the presiding Brothers there. The passion and excitement with which the Brother showed us around reminded me of St. John Baptist de La Salle and gave me a glimpse into the true nature of a saint. From the tour, I really got a sense of why La Salle become the influential person he was, and by walking in his footsteps I could even feel his enduring presence in Reims guiding me along.
Through these interesting experiences in France, I got a more complete understanding of the impact St. John Baptist de La Salle had. I highly recommend a visit to Reims for anyone who wishes to follow the path of our humble founder, and to really understand why his message endures. Although his life's work and achievements are difficult to live up to, anyone can learn from his teachings and continue to grow holistically.