This year’s Holy Cross Immersion service-learning trip, led by our Campus Minister, Adrian Jackson and Director of Counseling, Dr. Karen duPlantier, was held at Notre Dame High School, in Sherman Oaks, California, June 11–15. Twenty-four rising seniors from five Holy Cross Schools participated: Holy Cross, San Antonio, TX; Moreau Catholic, Oakland, CA; St. Francis, Mountain View, CA; Notre Dame, Sherman Oaks, CA; and Holy Cross, New Orleans. The theme of the Immersion was “Being Family – It’s YOUR love that brings me home.”
When the students arrived, they were broken into groups and given $20 to grocery shop for a family of four. They understood while shopping that it must be nutritious food and most had to cook their meals on a hot plate, microwave, or grill. This was an exercise to develop an understanding of the difficulties of the working poor in providing healthy food on a limited budget.
The service sites helped students to recognize that ‘family’ encompasses those who are often marginalized in society, those who are struggling and often different than us. One unique and remarkable service site was Homeboy Industries, which provides hope, training, and support to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women, allowing them to redirect their lives and become contributing members of their community. Our students met and heard from two men who told moving stories of their lives and childhood, how they were born into gang families, and knew no other way of life. Homeboy Industries, whose motto is “Jobs Not Jail,” has helped men and women with education, tattoo removal, work skills, mental health and employment. This powerful experience helped our students understand that no one is beyond redemption.
Additional experiences included serving on Skid Row at Midnight Mission and Union Mission, working with children of homeless families and cooking and serving food to homeless men. The participants worked two days for a Habitat project for Military Veterans, building houses, and they also spent time at Rancho, a group home for boys that was originally begun by our Holy Cross brothers.
The entire week was highlighted by daily Mass or prayer services conducted by students from each school. One afternoon they attended a moving Mass at the beautiful Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Each evening there was group reflection, giving everyone an opportunity to reflect on the people they encountered and where they saw God.
Every student who attended said their experience was life-changing. Here are some quotes from our students:
Nick Ramsey ‘19: “My Immersion experience opened my eyes on certain issues that go on in the world. I had the opportunity to meet my other Holy Cross brothers and sisters who I enjoyed bonding with and sharing this great experience. This immersion has helped me grow as a person and was life-changing.”
Benjamin Oelkers ’19: “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” The overall Immersion experience has taught me how we are all a part of a larger family. Not only did I learn about our larger community of Holy Cross, but I began to realize and understand that we are part of a much larger community, all of humanity. This experience has given me a larger perspective to view the world and understand that we are all truly family.
Christopher Townsend ’19: “Holy Cross Immersion was truly a life-changing experience and by far the best trip I have ever taken. We met so many great people from other Holy Cross Schools, toured Los Angeles, did many service projects to help the great people of Los Angeles, and grew in faith. I cannot thank Coach Jackson enough for seeing leadership qualities in me and giving me a chance to make a difference in the Holy Cross community.”
Gerald Jones, ’19: “My Immersion experience was simply fascinating. Honestly, I did not expect to gain so much from this trip. However, the love and generosity I received was amazing. This Immersion trip has opened up my eyes and stretched my family across the country. I humbly and gratefully thank Dr. Karen and Coach Jackson.”
Mason Carter, ’19: "I have learned that the things we read about certain places hold some truth value, but things seen within those places can truly resonate within the capacities of our minds and give us the entire spectrum. Immersion has taught me to be cognizant of the myriad of people who are destitute and deprived around the world. However, Los Angeles is often romanticized as a glamorous and astounding place, but what fails to be recognized is the deplorable condition of the misfortunate that is present there as well. Overall, Immersion has urged me to one day have a charity that caters to the poor and homeless, giving them blessed assurance that they are going to be cared for.”