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Posts from the ‘East LA’ Category


East LA Day 4, 2017

Wednesday March 8, 2017

Happy International Women’s day!

Wednesday morning we woke up refreshed and ready to go. We piled in the car heading toward the one and only Homeboy industries. If you are unfamiliar with Homeboy industries, it’s an organization started by Father Greg Boyle. They hire specifically those who have had a criminal record and are emerced in the gang culture. When we arrived, we had some time before our tour so we sat and enjoyed some delicious coffee and pastries at Homeboy bakery. Soon after, it was time for the thought of the day. Father Greg Boyle made some announcements and then handed the microphone off to Brittany to talk about international women’s day. Some of the women at Homeboy shared a story of a women in their life who they look up to. From there, Carlos and Sam gave us a short testimony of their life prior to Homeboy industries and how grateful they are to be working for such a great company. Carlos explained how he was involved in a gang and sold drugs and now he works for Homeboy with ex-gang members from rival gangs and on his way to getting a college degree. As they shared we continued on their tour around the facility explaining everything that they offer to the Homeboy’s and Homegirl’s. We visited the office where they remove tattoo’s.

For lunch we walked over to the Homegirl Café where you are served a delicious brunch with a side of sass. We enjoyed a delicious meal ranging from chillataquila to pancakes.

When we got back from the screen printing company, it was nap/reflection time in the courtyard.

Mikayla and Rachel


East LA Day 2 and 3, 2017

Hola, bienvendios!

Better late than ever we have arrived! East L.A. we love your culture and community, but we can do without the California traffic! We started our journey with authentic Mexican food at Yeya’s (can only be said with a sassy Ya-Ya!). Right off the bat we immersed ourselves immediately into the culture and joined our host families for the very first night! Each family took in 2-4 of us Carroll kids and provided shelter, food, and a loving Latino environment. Some of us were welcomed into the household with Arroz Con Leche, which is a rice milk hot drink/pudding, some went shopping, others watched movies, but one thing in common between each household was that there was conversation. The language barrier was very real. However; it forced us to realize that being communion with others does not necessarily require in depth conversation. There was a realization of appreciation for one’s physical presence and efforts to laugh and translate. Despite having a language barrier, the emotions of excitement, willingness, and genuine kindness were very apparent between us and our host families.

Our first full day in L.A. was spent at Delores Mission School. The children began their day in prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, reflections of the weekend, and a schedule for the week.  Each of us were joined a classroom, and we spent half of the day learning with students and assisting the teachers. Papers were graded, math problems were solved, reading took place, and of course there was recess (still our favorite subject). Most of us echoed the excitement and strange reality to time travel back to elementary school and junior high. Also, a great talk with Vice President Melissa brought to our attention some of the struggles that she sees throughout the school and community. The education of these children is effected by home environment, gang violence, and the uncertainty of their futures. Melissa displayed compassion and brought wisdom to our conversation. Her goal to educate and create strong community members is lived through the teachers at the school. Melissa helped shed light on the challenges the children face and explained how strongly Delores Mission is involved in these children’s lives. For example, the teachers will walk the children home if a parent is unable to or if it unsafe for the child to walk alone.

After school we served with Impacto, which is an afterschool program offered for the children at Delores Mission. We joined in snack time, helped the kids finish homework, played games outside until the sun went down. Many of us appreciated being kids again and found that a lot of relationships can be built around good, clean fun!

After a full day with the kiddos, we broke off and went to our host families. Each family had prepared a meal for each of us. Tostadas, taquitos, enchiladas, and pupusa have been engraved into our daily diets and there is no complaining here! Each family displayed such generosity, excitement, and joy to share a meal with us and matched our level of appreciation. It is a rare occasion that we are welcomed into a strangers home with such hospitality and grace. It is a blessing that these four families said yes to expanding their family time and we are so very grateful for their actions.

Molly-Kate and Katie


East LA Day 1, 2017

Saturday Morning. An early wake up. So early, that many members were disoriented. Without the sun being up, the phone tree wasn’t able to grow and metaphorically photosynthesize. At 5:30 however, other headlighteers picked up the slack and began making calls of their own with varying levels of joy ranging from songs to confusion to apologies. All in all, everyone was excited and raring to go. The gang clambered into the cars. Six in one and six in the other. Sleep crept back in on some members almost immediately, and sickness overtook others, but as we breathed in the Idaho air, the whole crew was ready. In both “mom rockets” a game of questions was held. Everyone was asked their favorite superpower, who their confirmation sponsor would be if it could only be a member of the current Carroll student body, the best conversation they’d had this week and why, what their dream job would be, what would they do if money wasn’t an issue, how they’d met each person in the car, and many more. For many of these questions, there was a silence that filled the car. Each person had to think and was forced to examine just what these individual questions meant to them as we broached these subjects of personal faith and hopes and dreams. How God is active in our lives and what does he want from us. Are we being called down the right path and with the right people and how would we know. As the questions and answers flowed back and forth, the conversation heated up, and the bonding tightened. The jams were cranked and “Polaroid” by Imagine Dragons emerged as the unofficial theme song of the trip. Breakfast consisted largely of the numerous snacks in the cars and lunch was Jimmy Johns in Ogden, Utah. We enjoyed the fabulous food and people of Ogden before hitting the road and shuffling the cars once again. We met up with a beautiful family of two brothers and their kids and wives. They had so much love within them. Even the little ones who couldn’t speak. They touched us to a point that for many of us later that night, they were the high point of our long car ride. We really felt blessed to be around them and share our meal with them.

We hit the grand state of Utah late in the day. Known for its Mormons, beehives, and Jazz. We showed up to mass five minutes before starting. The perfect amount of time for every vanmate to relieve themselves in the Parish bathrooms. The mass and sunset upon conclusion were both absolutely gorgeous. If there was a moment for many of us where we saw God that day, it was in that moment. The mass was done flawlessly with the priest bringing up a killer Lenten homily, and the parishioners being so nice to us and offering us books to take with us from their tiny tow. When we left the church is when we saw it. A gorgeous array of reds and oranges splayed across the sky and each cloud sprayed with bright pink hues. The peace and feeling of wonder at the grandeur of God’s goodness that many of us felt in that moment was one many of us wouldn’t forget. We made our way to the local shopping mart and happened upon some chicken and pasta with some salad fixings for our dinner in Bryan Head. Bryan Head was a beautiful ski resort tucked into the side of a mountain with a spacious condo with too many TVs. The meal was incredible with very touching centerpieces and very lively “happys and crappys”. These happys and their following crappys really touched on the day for us and the moments we shared. It allowed us to live in solidarity with each other. Learning what each of the people on the trip valued in their day. Where they found joy, and where they moments of desolation. Those who did not cook the dishes, washed them, and those who did cook the dishes, lounged in the living room after dinner. We had our daily recap of where we saw Jesus and readied our bodies for the night and the day ahead. After all, we had gotten lost on our way to our room. Who knew what misadventures tomorrow might hold? And what did today really mean for us? For most, it was an excellent beginning to our trip, an affirmation that we’d made the right choice in coming, and a hint at what God had in store for us in the future.



Day 6 Friday East Los Angeles


Departure from East LA, Slot Canyon at Snow Canyon State Park

An interesting bit about the church of Dolores Mission is that it houses the homeless during the nights. When this practice was first starting there were some people of the community who’s noses weren’t too pleased. For the church was originally covered in carpet and after many nights of homeless men sleeping there with their various ailments and such, you can imagine the smell that began to arise within the church. The community then gathered to decide the fate of this practice and if the homeless should be moved. The very first person to grab the mic began inhaling deeply while standing in the smelly church and in front of everyone said, “To me and my mother, it smells like roses.” That was the end of the conversation, from then on the church became a shelter for the homeless and the community of Dolores Mission fully surrendered to the will of God. It has been a blessing to be a part of this community and to see great things happen just by allowing the Spirit to move freely.

This morning we had to say goodbye to our host families and start on our journey to Helena. After eating delicious pancakes made by our wonderful host mother, we set off into the sunrise for the vans parked at Dolores Mission. As we were walking, Cory had noticed that all around this community it smelled of roses. He had a great reflection tying it all together with the story mentioned above. This community does smell like roses and it is beautiful with a goodness that is difficult to describe. God is with this community in a very real, authentic way.

Before leaving LA, we got to pray one more time with Fr. Ted as he led us in a reflection over our journey through Dolores Mission. It was here that for many of us we were able to see God and start to prepare our hearts for our own mission. I ask that all of you reading take time to reflect with us and look to your own life and your own journey and ask God to prepare you for the mission. He asked us to journey back through our lives and our time in East LA looking for God’s call to live the Gospel in our own lives back home. It was during this time that I realized this week had not just opened my heart but ripped it open. The people of this community had tilled the soil of my heart.

As the mini vans headed for Snow Canyon State Park, Fr. Ted’s reflection remained planted in our hearts. While at the slot canyon we were able to soak in God’s creation and let that seed start to grow into something concrete and real. And it was something else! We all got to take some time to look and really see, touch and really feel. Through God’s creation we were able to open up our senses to be more attentive to His voice. This then prompted a discussion on our car ride home that really bore some amazing fruit. One reflection in particular was that of the Gospel where the widow gave to the treasury not from her excess but from her poverty (Mark 12: 41-44). We realized that we met this woman of the Gospel while at Dolores Mission. We encountered people and had host families that gave their all. They were in extreme poverty and yet they still gave. How many times do we give from our excess and think that we’ve “done enough” or that we’ve made our weekly sacrifice? These people gave all that they had and even if they seemingly didn’t have anything they would look harder and find something. They are the women from the Gospel, they are all living the Gospel completely and therefore living fully. Once again, I’d like to go back to Fr. Ted’s last conversation with us where he was frank and said that Dolores Mission is not there because of the wealth of the rich but because of the love of the poor. We are all called to don the spirit of the poor. This means that we are called to give not from our excess but from our poverty. It is here that we begin to experience the love of the poor in our own hearts. This love is one that is deeper than I, and most of us, have been able to encounter. We’ve been moved to compassion, to suffer with, and carry these people with us. We’ve been called to a new depth of love.

I hope that our story has begun to till the soil of your own heart and opened it to new growth ignited by the Holy Spirit. Become the face of the faceless in the Gospel and don the spirit of the poor.


Day 4 Wednesday East Lost Angeles

Wednesday March, 11DSC_1237

Dolores Mission School, Father Ted’s talk, and the screening of American Crime

God has already blessed this week in more ways than I can count. Whether this was through providing us the opportunity to serve the homeless at the Saint Francis Center on Hope street, or allowing us to see the generosity of those who are serving the homeless on skid row in the Cardinal Manning center, God is good.

Today, God was no less generous. Our main task of the day was to work in the Dolores Mission School in a designated classroom. Being an education major myself, this was right up my alley. For my placement, the Dolores Mission School had me help out with the 1st grade class. Coming into the school, I expected the children to reflect the difficulties that they faced during their home lives, and to have many issues in the classroom. However, when I entered the classroom, all of the students were filled with joy and compassion, and were so willing to learn. One thing that really stuck with me from this time spent in the school was a conversation I had with one of the teachers, Mr. S. In this conversation, Mr. S. explained how his placement at Dolores Mission could not be described as a job, but rather a vocation. Our careers that we decide upon shouldn’t be based on our wants, but rather on what God is calling us too, and what He needs most from us. Mr. S. was the perfect example of someone doing their job in order to serve the Lord, and it was apparent through his enthusiasm and passion for what he was doing.

After the school, we had the privilege of listening to Father Ted give a talk about the community of Dolores Mission and some of the struggles that they face. I honestly don’t think that I have ever met a man more passionate about what he was doing that Father Ted. In my eyes, I would consider Father Ted a walking saint. In this talk, Father Ted really gave us a deeper understanding of the flaws in our immigration laws and regulations. On this trip, many of the people that we met would be considered undocumented. With this, many people say that we need to deport all of the undocumented immigrants. However, these people have never actually taken the time to get to know and understand the situations that these people are facing. Many of the people that we met fled Mexico in fear of their lives, and the lives of their families. Personally, as a Christian, I don’t understand how we can morally say that we should send these people back to an area in which they are in constant fear for their lives.

One thing that really stuck with me in Father Ted’s talk was his explanation of one of the pieces of art in the Dolores Mission Chapel. In this piece of art, Mary is portrayed as carrying Jesus on a journey from a small Mexican village to the city of Los Angeles. Mary has one arm extended as if welcoming us to join her in the journey, and to explain to those who have immigrated that they were not alone on their migration. Father Ted then went on to explain that Mary and Joseph, as well as Jesus could be considered undocumented immigrants, as they fled from King Harrod into a new country, Egypt. This picture really summed up the journey that the immigrants have made with faith in hope to find a better life in which they can serve the Lord as well as promote the well being of their families. I don’t want anyone who reads this blog to think that I am telling you to change your opinion on the subject, however I do think that anyone who reads this needs to take a moment to consider what the people who immigrate to our amazing country are facing, as well as the moral and ethical implications of our actions in forcing these immigrants to return to their home countries where the idea of tomorrow is a hope rather than an opportunity.

I really give no justice to the talk that Father Ted gave, as it truly moved mountains in all of our hearts and really changed the opinion of not only myself, but many others. The last part of our day was spent at a screening premier of episodes one and two of the new drama on ABC, American Crime. This show is about the realities that many of the homies of Los Angeles face in their lives and many things that they have gone through. What was amazing about this experience was not the show itself, but rather being able to see the men and women who are going through Homeboy Industries in a more natural setting. These men and women are incredible people who were caught in unfortunate circumstances throughout their lives but are seeking to give up their old ways and to be integrated into our society. Being able to hear them talk outside of Homeboy was really powerful because it really showed the hope and joy that they had towards the pursuit of a better life. It is hard to look past what people have done in their past, however it is essential in the process of loving everyone as Jesus loves us.

To end the night, we got to go back to our host families and spend the night with them. When I got back to my host family, we all sat around the table and asked each other questions and those who spoke English answered in Spanish and those who spoke Spanish answered in English. The language barrier was definitely one of the struggles that I have had on this trip, however this experience was extremely powerful because we got to work through that and assist each other in that struggle. Overall, I think the theme of the day was; that we need to learn to love people based upon who they are rather than what they are. These people have gone through situations that I can’t even imagine, and to see the compassion and joy that they live with is still beyond my comprehension. These people have ignited a passion inside of me that I hope I can share with you, and I hope that as I mentioned before, you take the time to think about the situations that these people have faced, as well as who these people are before you jump to conclusions.


Day 5 Thursday East Los Angeles

DSC_1275Veronica and Steve

Today we went to mass at the Cathedral at 7 and then we went to the Santa Monica beach and reflected. It was our second time at the Cathedral, and we learned a bit more about its history from a tour guide. It was built only 12 years ago. It was easier to appreciate it the second time because we weren’t as caught up in looking at the archietecture or art, but more the religious aspect that is there. We did some team building activities at the beach and got to know our group better. We also took some quiet time to reflect on everything we saw and heard this week. (Side note-we saw seals and dolphins at the beach!) We came back and had a picnic with all of our host families at the park. One host mom said it was the first time a group had come and stayed, and had dinner with everyone and played at the park with the kids. We thought that was pretty special and were glad to be a part of it. We also learned very quickly that we should not take the power of God and his ability to control the universe and all of its planets for granted, because the sun was definetly sent our way and we all had sunburns. Overall, our experience in LA has been very eye opening. It’s clear that God is at work through the community and people at Dolores Mission. We could not have felt more welcome in such a restless place. They are a very clear testimony of faith. Once more the sun has risen, and another day begins, but we are enjoying the LA weather and nature on this beautiful morning! Roger. Over and out. Steve and Veronica.


Day 3 Tuesday East Los Angeles

DSC_1205X: Buenos Dias! Our morning started off bright and early volunteering at the St. Francis Center on Hope St.

B: It was awesome and very humbling! Serving the homeless and low income was a great experience.

X: The St. Francis center was a different feel than any other soup kitchen I have volunteered at because they really focused on community. They had round tables with about 8 chairs at each and they welcomed in only three at a time. They did this because they explained that people would build relationships as they waited in line and then when they would come inside they were able to continue those relationships as they shared a meal together.

B: Then we were off to Denny’s for a very entertaining breakfast.

X: we parked on the top floor of a parking garage and dared each other to look down at the world below us. On our way back from breakfast, Katie was dared to climb a tree on the sidewalk of a very busy LA street! Some people said, “She’s like a tom cat!” Then, while we all wanted to fit in the elevator back up to our car, some were dared to run through the parking garage all the way up to the top floor. I can’t really explain how funny this was to witness.

B: After this Denny’s adventure, we went to the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels and celebrated mass together. As we toured inside and outside, we found there is so much diversity between cultures. It’s such an open and beautiful space where all are welcome to pray to God. Everything from the floor tile to the tapestry on the walls had so much architectural meaning.

X: My personal favorites were, the piece of the Tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the tapestry on the walls. The Tilma is the cloth that Juan Diego wore when he received the sign of Our Lady of Guadalupe and where the Lady of Guadalupe left her imprint. The Cathedral of our Lady of our Angels is the only other place besides the Cathedral in Mexico City to have a piece of the Tilma. The tapestry displayed saints from all the countries of the world. These saints were placed side but side but also were positioned to face the altar. Therefore when people walked up to the altar it seemed like the saints were walking with them.

B: After the church we went to the Cardinal Manning Center. We were 40 minutes late to our tour after experiencing mass and were afraid we wouldn’t be able to tour. When we got to the Cardinal Manning Center they understood and proceeded with our tour. The center is basically like a homeless shelter for men of skid row. They have beds, showers, and a community center room where they watch movies. This was a neat experience for us to see the community coming together to provide one of many shelters for the homeless to feel called to.

X: One thing that they said that really stuck in my mind was that there is a very identifiable line between skid row and “the other world” which is down town LA. On one side of the street you see people in tents begging for money or food, and on the other you see modern buildings with people that look like they are on their way to work. After running to our car for our next adventure that we were once again late to, we arrived at Jovenes Inc.

B: Jovenes Incorporated is another shelter for men ages 18-24 to find a place where they can get cleaned up and figure out how they need to change to work in the modern world. This is a very unique place because they look at all the individual gifts and characteristics that the men bring with them. They look at the dreams all the men are pursuing to get better, and they take these factors and help them work towards their goals and support them.

X: After this, half of us were off to the market to buy food that we would prepare and serve to the Guadalupe Homeless Project at Dolores Mission. I think we REALLY worked as a team and made some really great food. We proudly cooked chicken Fettuccini AlfredoJ with garlic bread and salad. After this we all walked away with memories of great conversation with the people we served.

B: At this dinner it was fun to practice my Spanish with those who spoke fluent Spanish. Ximena lead a great prayer in Spanish to the whole group. After this dinner we went back to our host families for the evening. They all provided great hospitality and truly shared their culture with us.

X: As you can see we had a very busy day however my night did not end there. Both Anna and Christina’s kids decided we should go to the park. A group of us played volleyball, tag, and many other games. It was so hot and we all ended up with grass stains and drenched in sweat. Our day that started off with an alarm (to the song Chainsaw) at 6 am ended at 11pm in our host family’s beds.

Thanks for reading and Hasta La Vista from East LA,

Con amor,

Baili and Ximena.


Monday in East LA

DSC_1191Greetings from sunny East LA! This is Abby and Kaycee reporting live from the Dolores Mission!

Not many people can say that they have had the opportunity to see lives changed in a concrete way; but we DID have the chance to see this at Homeboy Industries. The one and only Fr. Greg Boyle originally founded this organization. (Many of you have either read his book or listened to him speak at Carroll earlier this year). Fr. Boyle was sent to the Dolores Mission, where the largest housing projects west of the Mississippi were located and gang related shootings were a weekly occurrence. By working through kinship with the community surrounding the Mission, Fr. Boyle was able to create a space where formation of person could occur and people could turn their lives around. Enemy gang members work side by side making cupcakes, producing t-shirts and graciously serving others.

We first toured Homeboy Silkscreens. We met our tour guide C, a former gang member who turned his life around thanks to Fr. Boyle and Homeboy Industries. He shared with us both his life’s journey and the workings of the silkscreen business.

After our tour, we went to Homegirl Café, where homegirls with attitude will gladly take your order. The food was beyond incredible and the homegirls were even better. Even though there seemed to be an issue remembering who ordered what taco, they served us with smiles and grace.

Our last stop on our Homeboy Industries tour was the building where all the magic happens. G, our phenomenal tour guide, had a story that touched our hearts. The bravery required to turn his life from being an active gang member to a family man was incredible. Not one person in our group was left unaffected by this very genuine, authentic individual. We were shown the tattoo removal area where gang tattoos can be erased, free of charge, by a staff of volunteer doctors. We were also shown the administration end of the program and the many individuals it takes to run such a big industry.

Finally, we worked with the young students of Dolores Mission Catholic School in the Underwings after school program. In order to provide an enrichment activity they would not normally have the opportunity to participate in, our group split in two and worked with either kindergarten through 3rd grade or 4th through 8th grade. The younger students made oobleck, a messy but fun rubbery substance that the younger kids LOVED. The older group made towers out of BBQ skewers and marshmallows. (We definitely have some future engineers on our hands!)

This was by far one of the BEST DAYS EVER!!

We cannot wait to see what tomorrow holds!

¡Adios amigos!
Abby and Kaycee


The Big Tess and Lil E Show

DSC_1181Sunday March 8

What up gangstas?! Big Tess and Lil E here representing the LA headlights gang. Despite the complaints and “are we there yets,” we did arrive safely at our destination in East Los Angeles with only one hospital admittance (minor ear infection, but on the mend) and several cases of food poisoning from a taco stand that shall remain anonymous.

We spent our first night in the Dolores Mission School Library. “The Dolores Mission is a parish created in “the Flats” east of downtown Los Angeles, that is dedicated service to the poor, the immigrants, and to social justice. Dolores Mission provides extensive opportunities and services to counteract the neighborhood’s negative circumstances and positively impact the community.” The Dolores Mission parish school is an extension of the church for kindergarten through eighth grade students in the surrounding neighborhoods. This allows children a safe place to go and gives them faith, hope, and the necessary education for a promising future.

When we first arrived we took a tour of the mission grounds and then attended mass in Español. That evening half of our group assisted Lady of the Valley prayer group in serving the homeless dinner. We were able to sit down and share the meal with them as they shared their stories and struggles with us. After dinner, we walked over to the plaza by the church (which houses homeless men at night) and played guitar and sang with several of the men. They were full of joy and hope and delighted in singing and laughter.

Please continue to pray for us and all those we encounter.

God is calling-

Gotta bounce.

Tessa & Ella

To learn more about Dolores Mission or to donate please visit:


How Are You Going to Change Your Life?

Upon returning home from the headlights immersion trip, I was asked by my mother “how are you going to change your life after going on this trip?” I really had to think about this question. It made me reflect on all that I have experienced during this past week. 

            One experience that really impacted me happened at the Mother’s Day celebration. This celebration took place at the beautiful plaza next to the Dolores Mission. During the celebration we had the privilege of listening to beautiful music sung by young and old alike as well as heartfelt poetry. The highlight of this gathering was a clown who interacted with the audience and delighted the children with magic tricks and jokes all of which were in Spanish. At one point in the show he wanted to get the ladies of the community involved and started to drag them up to the front one by one. During his selection he grabbed my hand and my cries of “no, no, no.” did not seem to persuade him otherwise. When I got to the front he was having us do activities and asked us numerous questions all in Spanish. All of the questions I had no idea what he was talking about. During this experience I felt so uncomfortable and left out of all the jokes. Most of the laughing directed at my inability to answer the simple questions he asked.  This was one of the first times in my life I felt truly uncomfortable and left out. This experience made me think about many people in the community that only speak Spanish. How they must feel uncomfortable in many situations, not just this one time for me.

            The joy I felt and saw on this trip also impacted me greatly.  I saw the joy in the giggling children that ran around the playground at recess. I saw it in my host mother’s face when she showed off all the delicious food she cooked for us at our Thursday night dinner. I saw it in our tour guide at Homeboy when he spoke about his new job and all he had planned for in his future. And I saw it in the other students and Alumni that came on this trip throughout the entire experience.

            To answer my mom’s question there were two things I will take away from this trip that will maybe change the way I live my life. First I want to acknowledge how hard it is for individuals who have many barriers in their lives, particularly a language barrier, and how strong they are because they do not let it hold them back. I hope that I can learn from their example and overcome some of the simple barriers I have in my life such as preconceived judgments I have about people who are different then myself. I hope to take time to listen to other’s stories instead of form an opinion right away. Second I want to look for the joy in my community and to help foster joy in others lives. The joy that people had even in times of hardship was truly amazing and I hope to emulate this infectious joy. I feel honored and blessed to have the opportunity to go on this trip.

Amy Surbrugg