Urban Initiative calls for communal unity 


Riley Bream

Vicki Silva, Core team member of Urban Initiative

Angela Tran , Staff Writer

Do you want to learn about marginalized communities in Santa Barbara? Will you build relationships with new brothers and sisters in your local city? Vicki Silva, the director of a Westmont student-led ministry called Urban Initiative (UI), shares about how to “[seek] out the beauty and brokenness of Santa Barbara [and find] different avenues to get involved.”

Silva — a fourth-year psychology major — describes Urban Initiative as “a place for students to come and engage in the local church.” The organization coordinates six different Westmont teams who reach out to varying Santa Barbara groups (see list below for details). Silva loves how this encompasses a variety of people. It is an opportunity, she says, to “welcome [them] with open arms. It’s really great to see the inventive ways people care for others and how they can also inspire us to continue creating relationships.”

This is Silva’s third year on the UI core team. She says that the biggest characteristics of her fellow leaders are “constant care and love for doing ministry that is going to bring us all united as a body. That’s part of our vision as a team—remembering that [the people we serve] are all one united body. Where one laments and is hurting, we’re gonna lament alongside them. Keeping that unity is very important.” She hopes that UI is a safe place “for a continued conversation of justice, reconciliation and hurt in the church [while also] building relationships with communities [in a way] that benefits everybody involved.”

This mission is very close to Silva’s heart, as she has seen the effects of leaning into diversity in her background. She is a first-generation Mexican American who grew up in Santa Ana, a heavily Hispanic community. “I was so immersed in that culture,” she says. “But at the same time, I went to predominantly white [Catholic] schools.” On Westmont’s campus, she finally began to engage in conversations about that difference. “What does inequity look like?” she asks. “What do the differences in neighborhoods say about systems in place? … UI presents that very well. They encounter different communities, people and walks of life. Being part of UI just puts everybody together because they have one passion.” This passion, she says, is the same love for Christ. “He’s definitely shown Himself in the truth and the love that is presented in our ministries.”

If you want to learn more but are hesitant to pursue local or global ministry, Silva encourages you to lean into your curiosity and go for it. “Whether that starts with a conversation or just signing up for something, we have great opportunities in Urban Initiative, Emmaus Road and Potter’s Clay,” she says. “I think it’ll be hard to leave this part of my life, but I’m excited to take what I’ve learned into my career — [loving] people and [wanting] to work with them.”


Bread of Life (Thursdays 6-8 p.m.): Meal sharing at Alameda Park with our friends experiencing homelessness in SB.

Training C.A.M.P. (Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays 3:30-5:30 p.m.): Providing after-school programs and tutoring at SB elementary schools for under-resourced youth.

Immigrant Hope (Monday, Wednesday and Friday 6-8 p.m): Building relationships with legal permanent residents applying for naturalization through tutoring, support and events.

East Side Kids Club (Thursdays 5:30-8 p.m.): A faith-based after-school program with the children from the Eastside’s lower-income Latino community.

Oak Cottage (Wednesdays 2:30-4:30 p.m.): Engaging the elderly population of our community through activities.

TAG (one Thursday each month 5-6 p.m.): Educating Westmont students on the realities of human trafficking and providing engagement opportunities and resources.

Contact vsilva@westmont.edu or sazzarello@westmont.edu for more information.

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