Teenagers Make it Their Mission to Serve Homeless
“Okay, guys, I’d like you to pay attention now.” At the sound of their supervisor’s directions, the kids strapped in the van ceased their chatter. “Look over there and notice what you see,” Jessica Ruiz continued. “This is where these men and women live.” The teenagers peered out of the large windows to the street lined by modest tents and makeshift tarp dwellings as Mrs. Ruiz, the Monrovia Day Program supervisor, showed them downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row.
The students were being shuttled down Sixth Street to the Midnight Mission. The Midnight Mission, a non-profit organization that provides the homeless with meals, shelter, drug treatment and rehabilitation, and education, relies on volunteers to accomplish some of its services. And today, Monrovia Day, Girls Republic, and Los Angeles Residence students will serve the men and women at the Midnight Mission.
At the Midnight Mission, the teenagers toured the facilities and then trained to serve lunch in the cafeteria. By noon, a steady stream of people began to trickle in for lunch, and the teenagers were prepared to assist them. The majority of the girls and boys were stationed behind the serving line to dole out rice, salad, beans, burritos, and pastries to the people presenting their trays.
Other students brought full trays to disabled diners and ensured they had silverware and napkins. These teenagers weaved throughout the cafeteria, busing trays and talking with the diners. Scattered throughout the cafeteria, the students sat down with men and women and shared conversations about their experiences and daily life. Two students worked at the back of the cafeteria taking peoples’ trays, sorting plastic cups and used utensils, and stacking trays.
Of the experience, the student volunteers particularly enjoyed interacting with the people they served. “It was fun, and I enjoyed talking to people,” Monrovia student Andrew says. Michael agrees. He passed out beans to diners, and he found that everyone he served was “nice and cool.” Another student said that it was his first time visiting the Midnight Mission on a field trip: “I really learned a lot. I hope to do this again to experience more about the place and the people,” Andy explains.
As the students reflect on their time with the homeless, they ride back through Sixth Street. Again, Mrs. Ruiz prompts the students to pay attention. “These are the people that you just served lunch to,” she says. For the students, they’re not just leaving Skid Row; they are seeing the men and women they just connected with and where they live.