A Torrey Honors student learning more about God through 2nd Graders.
Education had always been a value in Sierra's family. When it came time to pick a college and move into higher education, she was intrigued with the Torrey Honors Program at Biola. An unusual approach to college education, Torrey focused on great works of literature, discussion-based classrooms, mentorship, and an overall holistic approach to learning. For the past three years, the Torrey program has chosen Solidarity as a place for their students to learn how these great works of literature and classroom discussions play out in real life.
Sierra saw the requirement to spend 40 hours of the semester volunteering in the Garnet neighborhood and was, admittedly, a little overwhelmed. How was she going to fit that into her already packed schedule? Never-the-less, she was excited to jump in, not expecting to be blown away by the culture in the community.
Biola has a very distinct culture, but at times students have felt that it created a “bubble” that was unlike everyday life. Being required to volunteer in a 1st generation immigrant community brought Sierra face to face with a previously unknown reality that plagued much of her surrounding city. She was unraveled by young elementary students in Garnet playing “La Migra,” a game of tag involving “citizens” fleeing from immigration agents. These students, who recently had loved ones deported, played a game that mimicked a gut-wrenching reality.
This struck Sierra. It was unlike anything she had ever experienced before.
“I realized that the students were having an impact on me. I could not pinpoint exactly how Solidarity, or specifically the second graders, was impacting me, but it was something I knew was good."
Despite the heartache in the community, Sierra noticed how the neighbors would really take care of each other. There was a mentality to look out for one another that resembled what God’s Church was intended to be. After fulfilling a required semester of volunteering, she felt like she had to come back. She wanted to know what God was doing in this low-income neighborhood.
In Sierra’s second semester volunteering at Solidarity, she started to connect the dots that God had laid out before her. She rediscovered why the Church was so crucial in areas of suffering. She learned that being a part of God’s Kingdom movements is crucial in building true community.
“Solidarity was doing what God does, what the church is crafted to do. That is good, that is significant, and that is beautiful. And here I am, with an opportunity and privilege to be a part of God's plan."
As her junior year comes to a close, Sierra looks back at her sophomore year with gratitude for how God has used the Torrey Honors Program and Solidarity to shape her mind and heart for the city. Volunteering with the Garnet students has become less of a required chore and more of a valuable, pivotal juncture in Sierra’s growth.