At Ascending Lights, we’re proud of our impact. This spring, our 34 students are leading 82 church-based outreach initiatives across Los Angeles County. Because of their volunteerism, Christian communities have trained and educated leaders to run food pantries, teach anti-violence education, mentor youth, and staff after-school programs. Each week, more than 2,700 people are impacted by our students’ service.
Just look at Ascending Lights scholar Aaron Torres. At Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church, Aaron is a gifted musician and ministry leader. In addition to playing guitar at Sunday Mass, he has dedicated himself to teaching and mentoring area youth thorough music.
On Monday nights, he packs up his guitar, a prepared lecture, and sheet music and drives from his home in Inglewood to Saint Joseph’s Church in Hawthorne. At the youth center, a group of 15 students, ages 13-17, awaits music lessons with Aaron. “A lot of the area kids aren’t religious,” Aaron says, “so, I focus on service. If anyone is going through anything or needs help, I let them know my classroom is safe place to talk.”
After teaching, Aaron puts down his guitar and provides help to students with homework, lends a listening ear to those who are hurting, and offers encouraging advice to students who seek it. “Latino kids often feel like their [non-Latino] school teachers don’t understand what it’s like to have financial problems or live in place filled with shootings, sirens, friends that take you down the wrong path, or parents who don’t have the language or educational experience to help you with academics.”
Aaron says he understands their struggle. In partnership with Ascending Lights and Saint Joseph’s Church, he’s devoted himself to create the kind of comfortable, safe space that kids need in order to heal and find a path forward.
But the good news doesn’t stop there.
Aaron is also excelling in the classroom. Over 2-years with Ascending Lights, he’s completed 66-units of coursework at LA Southwest College. Each semester he moves closer to graduation. “Right now, classes are moving really fast," Aaron says. "It’s been challenging for me, so I’m utilizing ever resource Ascending Lights has to offer.”
We’re proud of Aaron, his service to his church and his wider community, and all of his academic accomplishments. With Ascending Lights support, Aaron is receiving math tutoring and the one-on-one mentoring necessary to succeed in community college. Because of generous supporters, he’ll transcend the obstacles and break out of the downward cycle of poverty that ensnares so many in his community.
“Thank you,” Aaron says. “Having Ascending Lights means everything. It brings my stress level down and helps me persevere at times when I otherwise might feel like quitting.”
Aaron Torres attends LA Southwest College where he’s studying Administration of Justice and maintains a 3.5 GPA. After graduating with an Associate degree, he plans to transfer to a 4-year university, earn a B.A., and become a police officer.