Easing reality

Easing reality

Yaamini Venkataraman

Sophomore Jordan Thompson and freshman Audrey Wendschlag volunteer with WowJam every summer 




Do we know how to live in the real world? Once we step out of the classroom, nobody knows what comes next, but it’s not a cake walk.

Sophomore Jordan Thompson knows more about the real world than most high schoolers. Every summer, she visits inner-city Los Angeles and Long Beach with her church as a part of WowJam, a nine-day long block party hosted by the non-profit organization WowInternational. Local residents can come out and enjoy games, food and public services, such as haircuts. Volunteers with WowJam play games with the kids and have fun. At the end of the day, they pack everything up and move on to the next neighborhood.

During WowJams, residents have public services available to them, like haircuts and bicycle repairs. Photo taken from http://wowjam.com/photos.html."[We] make the people there feel important," Thompson said. "There are a lot of broken people [living] there, and we just try to cheer them up."

Two years ago, Thompson was at Skid Row in Los Angeles, a neighborhood with one of the most stable homeless populations in the United States. She was playing with two boys, one three-year-old and one four-year-old. Knowing she probably wouldn’t see them again, she hugged them for ten minutes, crying.

Thompson shares a special connection with another girl she met there. Italia has a fatal heart condition where she gets heart attacks every time she gets too scared. Living in an area with "a lot of broken people", surrounded by drug-addicts and gang members, kids don’t have that same youthful twinkle in their eye. Thompson talks on the phone several times a week with Italia in order to keep her a kid.

"[Italia] was the smartest two-year-old ever," Thompson said. "But the only reason she was so smart was because she had to grow up so early."

Freshman Audrey Wendschlag and her siblings alumni Erik and Laura Wednschlag have also been on this trip. Audrey describes her experiences with WowJam as "her favorite time". Both Thompson and the Audrey have been to other places with their churches, mainly because their parents are so involved with the church. Both of their fathers are pastors; Audrey has been to Africa with her parents on mission trips, Thompson to Mexico.

"[WowJam] gives you a purpose," Ms. Wendschlag said. "[Being with the people] just refreshes you."


"[WowJam] is weird because it’s never the same thing," Thompson said. "They have it tougher then we have here…we just love all the people there."