Urban Submersion Into the Heart of Los Angeles

by Nicole Chin '08

Thursday, March 10, 2005: The day that I embarked on an eye opening experience. The program, LA101, is an urban submersion into the heart of Los Angeles. I did several things to prepare for this four-day trip. Foremost, I decided to leave all items of comfort back in suburbia, including my cell phone, iPod, digital camera, and sadly, friends. Next, with little money and my trusty notebook, I headed off on the Metro Goldline with 12 other students ranging from freshmen to seniors, none of us really knowing what to expect.

I was quickly ushered into another world where my past perceptions of homelessness began to fade. The minute we began to explore Los Angeles and learn about those stricken by poverty, mental illnesses, and unpredictable misfortune, I saw that there are bigger concerns out there than little me.

The goal of LA101, the weekend version of APU's Los Angeles Term, gives students a first-hand glimpse of how poverty is less of a myth and more of a reality. During this experience, our hearts broke when we realized that these were real people, with real lives and real stories; however, at the same time we were encouraged by the works of American Apparel, Central City Community Outreach, Inner City Arts, the Los Angeles Catholic Worker, and other programs designed to aid the less fortunate. “It’s encouraging to visit these places and see what people are doing. If we went to LA and only saw the poverty, then we’d just go home crying. Here we see all the practical things people are doing to help,” said Global Studies major and participant Amy Scott ’07.

The reason I wanted to leave my items of comfort at home is because a vast majority of those living on the streets have little or no material possessions. Many of them go from cardboard box to cardboard box, with the same dirty clothes on, rain or shine, day in and day out. Seeing just how much joy they have despite their circumstances was convicting, especially as I struggled the entire weekend with missing many of the things that I had left in Azusa. Mike, one of the many men we talked to, spoke volumes by simply saying, “I cried yesterday. I don’t have to cry today.” How could I even bother to complain after seeing how much I have been blessed?

“Sometimes I think about where Jesus would be. He would be right here. He wouldn’t be in Hollywood or [on] Highland. He wouldn’t be on Melrose,” reflects fellow LA101 participant Matt Miller ’06. It is for that reason that many students participate in LA101. It is much more then sightseeing and serving the homeless, but learning about how God is moving through the city of Los Angeles. At the poetry “slam” on Friday, a young man explained to the audience that there is no life without Jesus, and whether you live at APU or urban Los Angeles, it’s true.

For more information on LA101, visit the Office of Ministry and Service located on APU's East Campus. For additional information on a similar experience, the Los Angeles Term, visit the Los Angeles Term website.