Building Community with Cerritos Kidz

by Jody Godoy '05

Laughter, talking, and the echo of a soccer ball against stuccoed walls is what you hear outside the Cerritos Apartments on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. The children who live there are hanging out with APU students, getting help with their homework, and having an all-around good time through a new program called Cerritos Kidz.

Ministry and Service Director Tim Hooten conceived Cerritos Kidz in response to a needs assessment done by a social work class. The students in the class talked to residents, who expressed the need for an after-school program. Hooten asked Bob Keal '04, who was participating in L.A. Term at the time, to become the student ministry coordinator of the program. Keal, who now lives in the apartments, saw Cerritos Kidz as an opportunity to benefit the Azusa community.

Around 12 APU students are commited to meet with the kids on Mondays or Wednesdays. After homework is done, they spend time with the kids playing soccer, working with clay, drawing pictures for their parents, making pizzas, and other fun activities.

"Our biggest goal with Cerritos Kidz is to establish relationships," said Keal, adding that the students act as "learners, friends, and neighbors, not ministers or missionaries." Students involved said they hoped to impact the community in direct, tangible, and relevant ways. Volunteer John Breckenfeld '06 uses his Spanish to "work with bilingual students and help them to perform well in school."

Keal hopes that Cerritos Kidz will "have an impact on what students view as ministry and what they view as vocational calling." For many students involved, it has already; one student is delaying his participation in L.A. Term in order to continue working with Cerritos Kidz. Keal plans to resume living in the apartments after graduation, hoping that his global learning term in South America will improve his Spanish and enable him to get to know the residents better.

"It's important for anyone who calls her or himself a Christian to think about what that means. I think that for all of us, it means meeting the needs of the community," said Keal.