Mission in Action

cpmmunity service learning


To most, it would just be a quick freeway jaunt to grab a bite. But for Chris Nayve and John Loggins, the 10-minute drive from the USD campus to Las Cuatro Milpas for lunch seems much longer, what with all the mouth-watering anticipation.

“You have to get here early or the line’s really long,” says Nayve, an experienced foodie who recommends the Barrio Logan spot for authentic Mexican food. The queue isn’t snaking too badly today; just 20 people stand between the pair and their meal. Soon enough Nayve and Loggins are digging into plates of crispy rolled chicken tacos slathered in sour cream, cheese and lettuce, homemade beans and rice, fresh tortillas and carnitas. Between bites, Nayve explains that the thriving family restaurant has been open since 1935 and is frequented by businessmen, police officers, locals and city officials; all are there for a “little taste of heaven.”

It’s no surprise that Nayve and Loggins are eager to support a local family business. Being immersed within a community is where they feel most at home. Along with colleague Brenna Hughes, the three USD alumni always keep community in mind, not just when they’re working for the Center for Community Service-Learning (CSL) and the Center for Awareness, Service and Action (CASA).

CSL celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and it remains a testament to founding direct-or Judy Rauner’s desire for the university and its students to build strong relationships with its Linda Vista neighbors. Rauner, who died in 2009, was driven by collaborative community projects, and employed students and staff members who preserved this vision, passion and purpose. Elaine Elliott, director from 2002 to June 2010, along with Nayve, Loggins, Hughes and thousands of students, have extended USD’s community outreach to San Diego County, internationally in Tijuana, and, most recently, an immersion program in New Orleans.

“I’ve never seen something so strong, so well developed as the CSL program at USD,” say Jorge Riquelme, executive director of Linda Vista’s Bayside Community Center. “The people in the center truly want to make an impact in the community. I think it’s one of the university’s greatest treasures.”

Approximately 850 students, in an average of 45 classes, participate in course-based community projects through CSL each semester, Nayve says. Each semester, CASA has more than 1,000 students working on projects involving hands-on leadership opportunities in often life-changing service projects.

“I like doing community service, but I really like the fact that their community service focuses on social justice and deep reflection. It isn’t, ‘OK, I’m going to do this for a day and then I’m done,’” says Ilana Sabban, a CASA marketing/social issues graduate student assistant. The three leaders – Nayve became CSL director in July, Loggins is associate director and CASA advisor, and Hughes is assistant director – are completely dedicated to taking service to the “next level.”

“We have a lot of love for all of the community partners we work with and we always want to approach the work that way,” Loggins says.

Nayve, equipped with three USD degrees, is in his 15th year as a USD community service staff member. After earning his history degree in 1998, he joined the CSL staff, juggling his work duties while obtaining a law degree in 2006 and his MBA in 2007.

Not surprisingly, Hughes, the youngest, looks up to Nayve. “He’s such a giver, such a mentor in the truest sense of the word,” she says. “He treats you as an equal which makes you feel important and valued. It’s genuine.”

After graduating from USD in 1995 with a degree in international relations, Loggins went into the Peace Corps and was assigned to Kingston, Jamaica for two years, working primarily as a counselor in a correctional facility for at-risk youth. He joined CSL in 2002 and now works closely with students to develop their leadership skills and passion for service. He returns to Jamaica twice a year with a USD summer study abroad program and for an Intersession student immersion trip to bring supplies, love and support to the town’s youth and community. “It’s a real personal connection,” he says. “To be able to go back to Jamaica with resources and with people who also want to build ties is fantastic. The community is like my second home, a second family.”

Nayve feels Loggins’ strongest attributes are stubbornness, loyalty and optimism. “He’s doggedly persistent making sure we’re on top of things that we should be connected to; he appreciates relationships and stays connected to people, issues, students and community partners because he’s truly concerned. Staying optimistic is very important, and John’s able to see the deep good in the world.”

Hughes earned a history degree in 2005 and, like Loggins, is currently in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences leadership degree program. When she obtains her master’s, it will certify what others already know: Nayve raves about Hughes’ efforts in CSL projects when she was an undergraduate student, saying she “exemplifies the best of what we can do.”

Hughes returned in 2007 when CSL secured a grant for the Youth to College education program; it was like being back with family. “I’m entering my fourth year here professionally, but I always say that I was raised by CSL.” Hughes was a freshman tutor in the America Reads program at Chesterton Elementary, which led to work on a juvenile hall project, a stint on the Social Issues Committee and more.

“I had incredible experiences that defined what type of life I wanted to live on my own, but also what I was looking for in a work environment.”

Students and faculty rave about the trio’s cohesiveness – a “very horizontal” leadership model, CASA Direct Service Graduate Assistant Kim Heinle says – and how they foster students’ desire to do good.

“It’s refreshing,” says Rhea Webb, a student leadership director and junior double major in sociology and accounting, about CASA’s office, which is laden with colorful murals. “When I’m done with class and my brain is full, I love coming here and getting to work.” — Ryan T. Blystone