February 22, 2016 — Loyola High School in Los Angeles celebrated the 35th anniversary of its Senior Service Project last month — a program that over 10,000 students have completed since its founding. From January 5–22, Loyola High's seniors volunteered at inner-city hospitals, special education schools, soup kitchens, centers for battered women and shelters. More than 300 seniors worked six- to seven-hour days at 85 service sites in metro Los Angeles.
Loyola High students made food kits at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. (Photo by Los Angeles Regional Food Bank)
Bishop Gordon Bennett, SJ, former president and principal as well as an alumnus of Loyola High, spoke to more than 750 students, parents and teachers at the closing ceremonies on January 22. Bishop Bennett implemented the Senior Service Week program in 1981 during his tenure as principal, and he offered a historical perspective of the project and its impact on Los Angeles.
Bishop Gordon Bennett, SJ, with Loyola High student Trampas Tanklage. (Photo by Kristi Tanklage)
"From the day our students enter Loyola as freshmen, they are asked to be men for others. The Senior Service Project is the culmination of their Loyola education as these young men give back for all that they have received," said Jesuit Father Gregory Goethals, president of Loyola High School. "It was a gift to have Bishop Bennett back at our campus, reflecting on the project's trajectory, its effect on our students, our community, and our city. He inspired us all."
Loyola High students pose for a photo at the closing of the Senior Service Project. (Photo by Jamal Adams)
The Loyola seniors served at many Catholic sites, including 30 grade schools in South and East Los Angeles; under-resourced grade schools in the South Bay, San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles; two hospitals; three centers serving the poor and homeless; and one shelter for battered women and children.
The three-week program includes weekly reflections at Loyola, organized in groups of six to eight seniors, moderated by a faculty or staff member. Once students complete the program, they create an individual presentation on their service site.
Loyola students Connor Benavides and Ryan Sharpe volunteered at Foothill Unity Center. (Photo by Loyola High School)
"Since 1981, 10,300 Loyola seniors have completed this unique service immersion program, the only one of its kind in Southern California. For many of them, it is the capstone experience of their four years at Loyola," said Tom Zeko, Loyola's director of community service. "As the class of 2016 goes on to college, we know that they will take the essence of this project to their universities and continue to serve others in the future." [Sources: California Province, Loyola High School]