Verbum Dei: Solidarity through Service

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Jolie Morrison

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Verbum Dei: Solidarity through Service

For over five years, Xavier College Preparatory has partnered with Verbum Dei High School to create an economic and socially immersive program known as the Verbum Dei Immersion. Xavier Juniors who apply and are accepted spend three days lodging on Verbum Dei Campus with twelve Verbum Dei students. Located South of Skid Row, Verbum Dei High School is situated within streets and neighborhoods of Watts, California. Over the course of the allotted three days, Xavier students will learn about the community’s history, the prevalence of violence, and have the opportunity to hear stories from students of Verbum Dei as well as individuals living on Skid Row.

Xavier Junior, Anastasia Bochnewich

Among the twelve Xavier Students that attended this year’s immersion is Junior, Anastasia Bochnewich. For some students, the incentive for submitting an application is the benefit of fifteen service hours, and this was the case for Anastasia. She stated, “Yes, I applied for this immersion trip mainly because it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get service hours, spend time with friends, and experience first-hand the conditions in Watts.” Though she was intending to come out of the experience with only fifteen service hours, Anastasia ended up leaving with new friends and meaningful memories. After discussing the events that occurred over the course of three days Anastasia disclosed, “This experience taught me to appreciate all I have and the amazing opportunities that I’ve been given. There are so many people in the world who live in incredibly difficult circumstances and listening to the stories of the people on Skid Row really showed me that homelessness can affect anyone at any time.” This is the beauty and the reality of Immersion trips at Xavier. Though the initial intentions for joining an Immersion Trip may only be for the reward of service hours, students such as Anastasia end up leaving with a greater appreciation for the opportunities they’ve been given and a stronger love for the people around them.

Xavier Junior, Alex Martinez

Xavier Junior, Alex Martinez, was also among the students in attendance. However, unlike other students, Alex had previously attended the Hogar Immersion in December. The Hogar Immersion is an iteration of the Verbum Dei immersion–in reverse. The Verbum Dei students travel to the Coachella Valley. Attending both Immersions has allowed Alex to establish deeply-rooted relationships with various students from Verbum Dei. In an interview he shared his love and appreciation for his new-found friends, stating, “I still talk to the guys from Verbum Dei because they are like any other friend at Xavier to me. I loved being able to stay up with them at night while they told stories about their community and made jokes. It was the small pranks and bits of laughter that seemed to matter the most.” The bits of laughter that Alex was able to share with some of the students allowed him to create genuine relationships that have and continue to last. Alex anticipates bringing a friend from Verbum Dei to Xavier’s Winter Formal, upholding their friendship while demonstrating the power of the Immersion experience.

Skid Row – Los Angeles, California

The purpose of Immersions such as these is to take the individual out of their comfort zone and expose them to the realities of the world. The intermixing of students and faculty who share a common faith provides for an open and safe space where students are able to be uniquely themselves and expand upon their secular and faith life views.  The fifteen service hours are given at the end, though not as important as it turns out, are well deserved. Through their brief work on Skid Row, students began to personalize the stories of individuals and in turn ended up standing in solidarity with those who have done all they can, yet lost all they had–Men and Women with and for others standing altogether.

 

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