By LOU PONSI     6/18/2024

JSERRA’S ANNUAL “Live for Others Senior Camino” is a tradition that helps the Catholic high school’s graduating seniors reflect on their God given gifts and contemplate what He has in store for them as they move forward into the next phase of their lives.



Zach Eckert, the school’s vice principal of student formation and leadership, said the Camino also gives graduating seniors a taste of the Camino de Compostela in Spain, a pilgrimage that dates back to the ninth century featuring a network of routes all leading to the Shrine of the Apostle St. James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where it is believed the remains of St. James are buried.

The Camino de Compostela draws hundreds of thousands annually from around the world to participate in the miles-long pilgrimage that can take more than a month to complete.

JSerra’s Live for Others Senior Camino is about 10 miles long and always takes place on the Monday of senior week.

“It’s to try and help them understand a Camino, a pilgrimage, is kind of a microcosm for your life, for your life’s journey,” Eckert said. “And the whole thing is oriented towards a sacred purpose for religious devotion.”

The May 20 Camino began with 6 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in San Clemente.

Following Mass, the seniors walked along a beach trail through Doheny State Beach, transitioned on to a bike path and then trekked the final stretch to JSerra along Camino Capistrano.

The seniors also carried written prayer intentions, Eckert said, which they placed at the base of the Our Lady of Guadalupe mosaic back at JSerra.

In 2017, the Camino took on a more personal meaning for JSerra seniors when it was renamed the Live for Others Senior Camino to honor JSerra graduate Tim Vorenkamp, who died in 2016 from a rare form of cancer.

Before his death, Vorenkamp founded the Live for Others Foundation, which raises awareness and funds for research to find a cure Synovial Cell Sarcoma.

Camino participant Julia Harkins said the Camino gave her the opportunity to converse with many of her teachers and classmates.

“It was interesting because I went to middle school at St. Edward’s,” said Harkins, who will attend UCLA in the fall. “When we walked past the school, I happened to be with a classmate who I’ve known since kindergarten. We were walking along the path probably for about two hours just talking about our memories growing up together at St. Edward’s and now at JSerra and just everything we’ve gone through. It was a very full circle moment for me.”

A varsity tennis player for four years and participant in Adaptive Athletics, Harkins also wrote a prayer intention for a family member.

Senior Sean Ledyard made it a point to walk with as many classmates as he could in order to have a final conversation before the graduates go their separate ways.

“I definitely recollected a lot of great memories with my buddies who I was walking with,” said Ledyard, who participated in several sports during his four years at JSerra. “It was definitely a great way to end the year, just to kind of look back on four years. I love everything about this school.”

Ledyard will attend Grove City College, a Christian college in Grove City, Pennsylvania.

“I think that JSerra is the best at what it’s trying to do,” he said. “I don’t think that there is a school that comes close to it in terms of developing kids’ character, faith and intellect. I learned that all here and I’m going to take it with me.”