Loyola High School's Senior Service Project celebrated its 35th anniversary of giving back to Los Angeles, January 5 - 22. The Los Angeles high school'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.
Bishop Gordon Bennett, SJ, who founded Loyola's Senior Service Project while serving as principal at the Jesuit prep school, was the guest speaker at the closing ceremonies on January 22. He offered an historical perspective of the project and its long-standing effect on Los Angeles. His remarks to more than 750 students, parents, and teachers in attendance received a standing ovation.
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 and shelters serving the poor and homeless as well as one shelter for battered women and children.
"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 Fr. Gregory Goethals, SJ, 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."
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 have completed the program, they create an individual presentation on their service site and what was accomplished for the closing ceremonies. In addition, four young men from the class of 2016 gave reflective testimonials to the record assembly.
"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."