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Alternative Breaks Makes Difference for LMU Students

New Year’s resolutions are made with the intention of improving oneself and laying out goals for the rest of the year. Nine Loyola Marymount University students shared in a resolution of becoming more involved in the Los Angeles community by participating in an immersion trip through the Alternative Breaks Program.

This immersion trip was in Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles and Tecate, Mexico, during the week of Jan. 3-10. For the first part of the trip students stayed in the homes of families from the Boyle Heights community.

“Before going on the trip I think some of us were a bit skeptical about how much immersion would actually take place considering it was only a 25-minute drive from the LMU campus. It wasn’t long after we arrived that we discovered the world of difference that existed in this city so close to home and yet so far from our everyday realities,” said Jessica Espinoza, junior communication studies major.

The program included students meeting with community organizers such as Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention program in Los Angeles, and volunteering for Underwings, an after-school program for K-8 students. The LMU group also visited Dolores Mission, a Jesuit parish in Boyle Heights, where they learned of the hardships of the homeless men of the Guadalupe Homeless Project, reformed gang members and their host families through dialogue.

“The testimonies that we heard from the homeless men was so moving that it prompted me to take action, so I pursued an internship with an organization that helps people find jobs,” said Caroline Horstmann, senior English major.

For the second part of the trip the students traveled to Tecate, where they participated in several service projects such as repairing a house and distributing toys. Jose Lopez Jr., a senior psychology major with a minor in sociology, helped work on a house that had two young children living alone in it. Their mother is deceased and their father has been in jail for the past 19 years.

“We had to fix the ceiling and roof of the house because it was leaking from the rain. We also threw out a lot of furniture that had been ruined from all of the mold. It felt good to know we had helped but I hope that in the future I can start a foundation for these kids,” Lopez said.

LMU offers local, national and global Alternative Break trips for students several times throughout the year. The program allows students the opportunity to immerse in and embrace a new culture, provide aid through hands-on service and to educate themselves about political and socioeconomic issues facing that community.

“Alternative Breaks serve as a catalyst in helping shape students to become men and women for and with others. This trip was completely in line with that mission because we were not simply serving others from a higher place of charity but we were there with them. We learned and received from them as much as they received from us” said Emmy Aceves, junior liberal studies major and Alternative Breaks group leader.