Spring Immersion Trips

Transformative student experiences: Homeboy Industries

Students listen to a man in a Homeboy Industries office

Students engaged in a transformative experience that not only allowed them to explore the wider world but also integrated classroom knowledge into real-life scenarios.

2023 Spring Immersion Trips

Traveling to Homeboy Industries in 2023

The 2023 Spring Immersion Trips to Los Angeles, specifically to Dolores Mission Catholic Church and Homeboy Industries, and to Tacoma, L’Arche Tahoma Hope, serve as powerful examples of the significant impact of experiential learning. Between these two trips, 17 students engaged in a transformative experience that not only allowed them to explore the wider world but also integrated classroom knowledge into real-life scenarios.

Homeboy Industries, founded by Father Gregory Boyle in 1988 in collaboration with the Dolores Mission Catholic Church community, is a Los Angeles-based social enterprise focused on the restoration of gang members and formerly incarcerated persons into society. Through businesses like Homeboy Bakery and Homegirl Café, the organization provides job skills training and employment opportunities, aiming to break the cycle of violence and incarceration. Operating on a "jobs not jails" model, Homeboy Industries not only contributes to economic revitalization but also fosters a supportive environment for individuals seeking to rebuild their lives. Beyond employment, the organization offers education, mental health services and community support, exemplifying the life-changing impact of compassionate entrepreneurship.

The leaders accompanying the students on the Los Angeles trip were John Hopkins, Ph.D., and Nick Coffman, with Jocelyn Bonilla ’21 serving as an alumna mentor for students. The trip marked a revival of a course-bound concept of educational traveling designed to provide students with an immersive understanding of the world around them, bringing complex social justice and faith issues into students’ own lived experiences. Educational Spring break trips like this have been a part of Saint Martin’s for over ten years, each opportunity fostering personal growth and expanding students' perspectives.

The primary purpose of the trip was to immerse students in the environment of East Los Angeles, aiming to broaden their perspectives, increase their understanding of course content, readings, lectures and to enhance critical reasoning and problem analysis skills. Following the trip, students unanimously agreed the experience enriched their overall university experience and was invaluable, and recommended next spring’s trip to fellow students. In reflections about the impact of the immersion trip, students expressed their experiences as deeply meaningful, triggering, hopeful, and loving. Their testimonials revealed that the trip sparked changes in their worldviews, with some describing it as a catalyst for further growth and awakening.

The influence of the immersion experience extended beyond personal development, impacting academic focus as well. Some students reconsidered their academic paths, with one accounting student expressing newfound inspiration to incorporate service into their field and another contemplating changing their major to social work due to the transformative encounters during the trip.

Planning for the 2024 immersion trip

The University plans to return to Dolores Mission and Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles and the Tacoma L’Arche Tahoma Hope for Spring Service Immersion trips this spring, continuing to foster relationships in these communities as partners in learning with Saint Martin’s. Advocacy-driven individuals seek unique experiences, like education majors heading to Los Angeles to hone skills for future diverse classrooms.

Student leaders like Residence Hall Assistants, Benedictine Scholars, and club leaders join both trips to develop their leadership skills and explore servant leadership in action. Five students are attending the L’Arche Immersion while 12 students are attending the Los Angeles Immersion. L’Arche trip participants will contribute to the self-sustaining farm work and community relationships that define the Tahoma Hope community. Los Angeles trip participants will engage with organizations that address complex social problems from restorative work among the formerly incarcerated at Homeboy Industries to street ministry at Skid Row in partnership with the Los Angeles Catholic Worker organization.

Read more in Insights Magazine


Social Work

Looking for a career dedicated to helping individuals and families cope with the difficult challenges of life? Social work may be the best major for you.

  • Main (Lacey)
Type of Instruction
  • In Person
  • Bachelor of Social Work