The Lasallian Volunteers program gave Robert Vitelli ’97 the experience he needed to get into community organizing. He now serves as COO of Long Island GLBT Services Network where he's been helping youth for the past 11 years.
While Robert Vitelli ’97 loved his major, mechanical engineering, he knew he wanted to do something else. The former crew team member was feeling drawn to a more people-oriented, community-organizing career path. Vitelli had learned about the Lasallian Volunteer program through social action, and when it was recommended to him, he jumped at the chance.
“It was a great transition opportunity for me in terms of working with young people and doing some community organizing,” he says. “I think why I love the Lasallian Volunteer program is because it became another opportunity to learn about the Lasallian mission of serving the poor through education.”
Vitelli joined the LEO Center (Lasallian Educational Opportunities) as its first LV and helped run the program. The center has two programs, an afternoon session for middle school students, and one at night for high schoolers. He was assigned to managing the computer room and lab and helped the students enhance their computer skills, while also assisting high school students with identifying appropriate college opportunities.
“My year as a Lasallian volunteer at the LEO Center in Oakland was terrific,” he says. “I had a chance to work with incredible young people, to live and work with four Lasallian Christian Brothers who were fantastic. They were incredible supports, incredible mentors, and the experience was amazing.”
I think why I love the Lasallian Volunteer program is because it became another opportunity to learn about the Lasallian mission of serving the poor through education.
After being a LV, Vitelli went to New York University and received his master’s degree in higher education administration. He loved his involvement at the College and decided it would be great to help and support college and university students in a campus setting.
But a unique opportunity arose, one that was pretty close to his dream job. Vitelli found a community educator position at the Long Island GLBT Services Network that seemed tailored to his skills and experiences.
He’s been there now for 11 years. Vitelli has progressed from being a community organizer, to a director of education, then assistant director, its first fundraising officer, and currently the chief operating officer.
He credits his experience as a LV with molding who he is as a professional.
“When I was a Lasallian volunteer, it was about social justice, serving the poor through education. That meant a lot to me and is important to me,” he says. “Now, working at a gay and lesbian community center, really most of our work is about helping young people. To connect it back to being a LV, it is about that need, seeing and knowing people in your community and being able to help them. Not just do something for them so they can get by, but also addressing systemic change.”