Each member of Serra's junior class is spending one day this week immersing themselves in San Francisco's Tenderloin District through St. Anthony's Foundation's Urban Plunge. The Urban Plunge program provides students with a first-hand look at a local and urban community in desperate need, according to Christian Cahill, Serra Christian Services Coordinator.
Before service work begins, students are provided with an orientation on the Francisan values of serving the disadvantaged with dignity and respect.
"The students learn about the history of the neighborhood and some of the reasons for extreme poverty," Cahill said
Students are divided into four groups, including kitchen preparation and service, clothing folding closet, and two groups for daycare for the elderly, which includes those with mental health needs and others with medical help. The students complete necessary tasks that help the foundation better serve their clients.
Once lunchtime comes, students are broken up in groups to sit and eat lunch with the clients of St. Anthony's Foundation. Students are encouraged to interact with the clients and learn about their lives, Cahill said.
According to student Jack Marks, the experience is both eye-opening and perspective-altering.
"I did not know what to expect when I signed up," said Marks. "Coming to the Tenderloin has broadened my perspective on homelessness and poverty," he said. "Helping people is something everyone should do."
Patrick Matsunaga also remarked on how the experience has enlightened him. "Experiences like this make me feel good and feel like I am contributing to society," he said.
At the end of each work day, students are led in group reflections on the broader causes of poverty, homelessness and the extremely vulnerable who live so near.
Serra High School has been participating in the Urban Punge with St. Anthony's Foundation for roughly 16 years, Cahill said.