Students Give Back to Their New Community Through City Links

by Bethany Wagner

Whether painting walls, cleaning the carpet of a church, or pulling weeds at the home of an elderly couple, this fall APU freshmen gave back to the community that serves as their new home during the university’s annual City Links program.

During three days of service on September 22, 29, and October 6, more than 1,200 freshman—the largest incoming class in APU history—served approximately 100 individuals and organizations through community projects in Azusa, Glendora, Pomona, Covina, Duarte, San Dimas, Monrovia, Sierra Madre, and Los Angeles.

Freshmen served with their Alpha groups, small groups of 8–10 students led by a sophomore and designed to facilitate friendships among incoming students. Alpha groups also attend the Beginnings course together, which helps students transition into college life.

City Links provides the opportunity for freshmen to put their close Alpha group bonds and what they have learned in Beginnings to use outside campus, exemplifying the love of God by serving the community.

“Azusa really is our new home,” said freshman Camille Newbro, a liberal studies major. “City Links allowed us to establish deeper roots through service.” Newbro and her Alpha group served at Our Neighborhood Homework House, a tutoring center in Azusa for at-risk children. They organized supplies and put together student folders to help Homework House prepare for the start of the new school year. With the connections Newbro made during City Links, she hopes to volunteer at Homework House regularly next year.

Loren Jolley-Ruud ’15, a psychology major and Alpha leader, served with her Alpha group at a senior living home in Sierra Madre where they visited with residents and baked apple pies and muffins.

“I sat with a lady who had Alzheimer’s and rubbed her hands with lotion for almost an hour,” said Jolley-Ruud. “As I spent time with her, I found I cared about her more and more. It was such a humbling experience to spend the afternoon with these members of the community who are often forgotten. Serving at City Links made my entire group feel more well-grounded in this community and more connected to the people who live outside our campus.”

“Freshly painted walls and re-landscaped yards are wonderful,” said Jenny Elsey, associate director for mobilization and City Links coordinator. “However, I believe the relationships that are built are the things that have a lasting effect. Serving with their neighbors gives students an opportunity to hear stories and see the beauty that exists in these communities.”

Azusa Mayor Joseph Rocha showed his support for the program by coming alongside students and serving with them. “The City Links program has transformed the very fabric of this community,” said Mayor Rocha. “It allows incoming APU students to learn more about their home for the next four years, and provides the opportunity for community members and students to forge friendships.”