Saint Francis High School students who participated in local immersions earlier this year discovered they need not go far to make an impact. The Saint Francis Bay Area and Los Angeles “plunges,” three-day overnight experiences that are shorter than the typical weeklong immersions, offer opportunities to serve communities close to home. By interacting directly with those living on the periphery of society, students discover how fulfilling it is to serve as advocates for the marginalized.
While on the Bay Area plunge, senior Andrea Smith served hot meals for the hungry and helped decorate and brighten up a property that shelters the homeless. She and her three fellow immersion participants, along with two Saint Francis staff members, also assembled kits with personal hygiene items, which they distributed to the homeless in San Francisco.
The immersion was a powerful experience for Andrea, who found that by stepping outside of her comfort zone and treating the homeless with compassion, she could offer them hope and dignity.
Likewise, the 10 students on the Los Angeles plunge, who were accompanied by two faculty members, had a similar eye-opening experience. They visited Homeboy Industries, the nation’s largest rehabilitation program for former gang members, and cooked and served meals for the homeless at Dolores Mission. Guided by a police officer, the students also walked through Skid Row, which has one of the largest homeless populations in the country. This educational experience allowed them to see firsthand the hardships that the homeless face and the economic disparity that exists between Skid Row and high-end shops just blocks away. Understanding how the poor live and hearing their stories have inspired the students to devote themselves more to service.
“I’m going to college next year, and I want to join a community service club when I get there,” said senior Kaitlyn Durekas. “I want to continue this experience. I’m so grateful for it.”