Immersion in East Los Angeles
My name is Gurleen and I am a junior at SCU. My passion for travelling has helped me gain an appreciation for the unique cultures of Europe, Asia, etc. At the end of the day, I love coming back to my home in America. Last year, I declared a History minor with an emphasis on U.S. history to supplement my Finance major and to further learn about the rich history of our country.
This spring break, I went on an immersion trip to East Los Angeles. I was nervous stepping into the community because it is very different from the part of Los Angeles I have seen, or the tourist-friendly Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Westwood. My group was hosted by the community of Dolores Mission, a Jesuit parish in Boyle Heights. For the first four days, we slept over in the K-8 school, and then we stayed at the actual homes of community members.
One of the most memorable moments of the trip was visiting Homeboy Industries. It is an organization founded by Father Greg Boyle that helps formerly gang-involved and incarcerated people transition to regular lifestyles and find jobs to secure bright futures. I learned that in the 1980s, eight gangs existed in that area, but now there are only two gangs. It was very heart-warming to see how former gang members put their trust in Father Boyle and treated him like a father-figure. Many of the “homies” from Homeboy Industries have drastically changed their lives, escaping from gang violence and drugs, and now finding love for people they previously considered enemies. The organization offers tattoo removal services, anger management classes, drugs and alcohol addiction recovery services, etc. The homies run a delicious bakery, Homegirl Café, which serves delicious Mexican food. They also make attire at Homeboy Industries Silkscreen. I am so impressed to see how far the community has come!
I really immersed into the culture of the community by eating authentic Mexican meals, using my simple Spanish skills, tutoring the children at Dolores Mission School, and hearing the stories of youth and immigrants. I also learned about my own privileges and appreciated our differences. I now know that Boyle Heights has a distinct and unique history, which is essential to the larger Los Angeles community.
Apr 10, 2017
Gurleen Bajwa (front row, second from left) and her fellow SCU immersion students in Los Angeles in March.