Service in Los Angeles
While many students are rehashing spring break stories spent skiing, basking in the sun, or eating Mom’s home cooking, 10 Gonzaga University Comprehensive Leadership (CLP) students reminisce about the week in which they served children and the homeless in the East Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights.
This spring break alternative resulted from a CLP legacy project organized by seniors Chris Wheatley and Kathleen Yalung. Acting as servant leaders, Wheatley and Yalung infused a balance of community service and educational opportunities for the CLP students during their three-night stay at various homes throughout the neighborhood. The students spent their days cooking meals for members of the Guadalupe Homeless Project, teaching and playing with at-risk children from Dolores Mission School, and engaging in local culture.
Particular highlights of the trip included visiting local artist John August Swanson who toured students through his studio, shared his artistic purpose and inspiration for his colorful paintings, and treated them all to a signed print of his extraordinary work. Students also visited Homeboy Industries, an organization that assists at-risk youth and former gang members with the hope of keeping them out of jail and helping them to overcome gang life through a number of free services such as counseling, education, tattoo removal, and job placement.
“It was awe inspiring and eye opening to hear the personal struggles and stories of men and women trying to better their lives as well as see passionate people working to make their ambitions possible,” Yalung said.
Lunch in the Home Girls Café, which employs former female gang members, was a treat for all as they shared stories with the students about the neighborhood’s tumultuous history and about the transformation from eleven to three gangs within one year. Students also had an opportunity to participate in a religious procession for the Stations of the Cross.
“The procession was unlike anything many of us had ever experienced. We marched through another gang’s territory holding signs in support of non-violence in the streets and prayed the rosary in Spanish; all while being accompanied by the local police,” Yalung said.
The L.A. trip was a big success, said CLP Director Josh Armstrong, who hopes to plan a return trip this year. “The trip embodied the CLP mission, which is to foster the development of men and women who lead for the common good.”
Established in 2002, the CLP at Gonzaga is a three-year certificate program designed to offer students curricular and co-curricular learning opportunities to develop knowledge and skills for leadership. For more information about the CLP, please call Josh Armstrong at 323-6493, or visit the CLP Web site.