For the past 36 years, Loyola High School has sent seniors off to their individual service sites throughout the Los Angeles area. On Monday, Jan. 8, the seniors of the class of 2018 began their Senior Service Project.
The range of service sites at which the seniors work varies. According to the Director of Community Service Tom Zeko, seniors went places such as homeless shelters, schools in need of funding and support and missions on Skid Row.
Senior Fintan Hiney is serving at Dignity Health California Hospital Medical Center located in Downtown Los Angeles.
Hiney said, “I am a volunteer with Patient Experiences, which means that I go and visit patients to see how their service has been. For example, have the nurses been responsive, has the patient been educated by their nurses and doctors about their health status, is the food good and anything else in general that I can help them with.”
The project lasts a total of three weeks, and during that time period, seniors serve more than 78 hours.
In addition to seniors fulfilling their service requirement, the Senior Service Project also gives Loyola opportunities to back to the community.
Zeko said, “The Senior Service Project is about service with a population that’s poor, needy and marginalized. It’s a different level of intensity, and it’s different than if you’re just going in for an hour a couple days a week or once a week.”
Before beginning working at their service sites, seniors must go through an extensive application process.
Senior Odie Deocariza helped 4th graders with their mathematics, reading and writing at Our Lady of Talpa, an underprivileged school in Boyle Heights.
Deocariza said, “First, I had to inform Mr. Zeko or Mrs. Moran about my site. Then, I needed to do an interview at my site, and afterwards, I had to report back to Mr. Zeko or Mrs. Moran to have them verify it.”
Hiney said, “After I was interviewed by volunteer coordinator Tracy Nordback, I had a health screening, which included a drug test and getting blood drawn, and filled out paperwork that included a written essay and a test on an educational packet that taught proper hospital procedures.”
The Community Service Department is in constant contact with the service sites at which students work year after year.
Moran said, “We have been in a relationship with these service sites over the course of the entire Senior Service Project program, and they look forward to receiving our students. It’s such a unique program. One that we are very proud of.”
Although the main purpose of the Senior Service Project is to give seniors an experience of working with those in need, it often helps seniors explore their interests and forge new bonds with those they work with.
Moran said, “Pretty soon the seniors forget that this is their Senior Service Project and realize that this is more about them creating this relationship. There’s something that is really sparked in their hearts and their minds through that continuous interaction over those three continuous weeks of experience.”
The Senior Service Project Closing Ceremony and reflections will be on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. Everyone in the community is welcome to attend.
Zeko said, “The Senior Service Project is the capstone of senior’s whole four years of service and academics that they do at Loyola. The idea is that the seniors will be pushed and encouraged to go beyond their comfort zone to try something new and different.”
The Senior Service Project affects the community, as well as the seniors, later on in life, both in school and out.
Alumnus Charlie Trepany ‘15, who is now a junior in college, said “The Senior Service Project made me a more gracious and humble person, and it really put my time as a whole, in perspective.”