After years of student groups engaging in weekend cultural and educational trips to Los Angeles’ urban areas, the Center for Student Action’s (CSA) L.A. 101 is adding to its curriculum and focus.
The program, which was founded in 1992 after the Los Angeles riots, will now partner students with three service locations in addition to customary trips to museums and cultural centers.
“We will not only be talking about some of these great and important issues, but we also have the ability now to partner with specific organizations throughout LA to put our words into action and learn through experience, which I think is so important,” L.A. 101 student ministry coordinator and sophomore political science major Chloe Buckler said.
Trip participants will be serving with Homeboy Industries, which seeks to provide holistic care to ex-gang members and people coming out of incarceration. The organization helps them find jobs and complete their GED, along with parenting classes and tattoo removal. L.A. 101 students will tour the facilities, hear testimonies and eat at Homegirl Cafe, where many of the men in the Homeboy Industries program work.
Students will also volunteer at Union Rescue Mission, one of the largest of its kind in the country. The rescue mission, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary, provides Los Angeles’ homeless population with meals, jobs and housing. Volunteers will also partner with a Catholic church’s immigration ministry by administering practice citizenship tests and hosting events.
“There are great organizations already doing great work for the Lord’s Kingdom out there,” Buckler said. “One of my hopes and prayers is that this experience would first and foremost be an opportunity for [students and] people at APU to be able to see what God is already doing in LA.”
Buckler said that she hopes adding the service element to L.A. 101 will help mobilize students and give them a passion for missions and a love for Los Angeles.
”I think the most important thing is to be able to bring that knowledge back to APU and be able to turn that knowledge into action of some sort,” Buckler said.
In hopes of minimizing missed class time, the L.A. 101 program is going from four to three days long. Buckler said no elements of the original program will be taken away despite the time reduction.
“We’re adding more than we’re taking…away,” Buckler said.
In light of the additions to L.A. 101, program coordinator for local ministries Aizaiah Yong said that he believes adding a service element to the ministry is crucial to aligning L.A. 101 with the CSA’s values. Prior to the changes, L.A. 101 was the only program the office offered that was not service based.
“Since CSA is focused on service-oriented learning, I was wondering why we do that in all of our other ministries and not L.A. 101,” Yong said.
Yong explained that due to the awareness many students gain from semesters studying in L.A. Term, the L.A. 101 program seeks to meet the needs in Los Angeles that past APU students have witnessed firsthand.
“We are looking for creative new ways for us to serve with what these LA organizations have been doing already,” Yong said.
Sophomore English major Riley Bennett went to L.A. 101 last year before the changes were implemented to the program. Bennett said she would definitely recommend the trip to others and would welcome the chance to go again, especially with the added service element. She said that she went the first time because she wanted to connect with other students and people in Los Angeles.
“One of my favorite parts of the trip was touring Homeboy Industries,” Bennett said. “It was powerful to hear people’s stories about getting out of the gang environment.”
Bennett explained that the only service components before the new changes were working in a community garden and handing out extra food to homeless people. She said that she wishes there had been more of a service aspect when she went, but she is excited that it has been changed for future trips.
Bennett added that she really valued the cultural experiences the trip provided.
“I definitely thought taking public transportation everywhere added a lot to our experience,” Bennett said. “We were completely submerged in the culture and were about as involved as we could get.”
The spring semester L.A. 101 trips will be from March 18-20 and April 8-10.
Due to size restrictions, only 10 students will be admitted per weekend on a first-come, first-served basis. A $50 deposit is required and the trip is $150 total, which includes museum, food and transportation costs. Participants will receive 30 MAS credits for attending.
To apply, go online to http://www.centerforstudentaction.org/local-ministries/la101/.