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LA PUENTE, California — Students attending classes at Latin American Bible Institute (LABI) College, located in the calm industrial neighborhood known as Avocado Heights, are glad they are here.
“We experience beautiful moments together,” Victor Solorzano says. “We go through ups and downs together as a family, being discipled spiritually and educationally.”
Solorzano hails from Fairfield, California. Jose Solorzano is a cabinetmaker while Clara Beleche (his Mexican-born mother) stays at home. Solorzano says he didn’t know if he would attend college until his senior year in high school, when a teacher convinced him the experience would help develop his character.
He started attending LABI in the spring of 2020, pursuing an associate’s degree in Bible and ministry. As a teenager, he attended LABI. Templo La Hermosa, an Assemblies of God church in Vacavillle, Solorzano says he didn’t start living as a Christian until after he arrived at LABI.
“Community is a big thing for me,” says Solorzano, 22. “I’m learning a lot from the people around me.”
In addition to singing on the LABI worship team, Solorzano is a children’s ministry leader at Iglesia Primitiva Juan 3:16 in La Puente. Solorzano plans on attending another school to study psychology or music after LABI. He has to keep up with his homework, which is more difficult than high school.
LABI librarian and faculty Member Steven Valdez43-year-old Solorzano helps students make the transition.
“Some LABI College students may not feel prepared for university-level studies,” says Valdez, a 1998 alum. “But this is a hands-on training facility. There is a lot of person-to-person interaction.”
“Students can learn to be studious,” says Valdez, who also is associate pastor at The Connection ChurchHuntington Beach. “Many rise to the occasion.”
Salmai Guzman (18) is a first year student at LABI. She initially didn’t plan on attending the school, but her 20-year-old sister, Ruth, who also is enrolled at LABI, talked her into coming.
“I wanted to go to a Christian school and I discovered LABI would lay a good biblical foundation,” says Guzman, who is from Highland Ranch, Colorado. Her Guatemalan father, Abel Antonio Guzman is in the heating and air conditioning business while her Mexican mother, Rebeca, babysits.
Guzman was a member of the worship team at Nueva Esperanza, her Colorado home church. She is currently enrolled at LABI and also serves on the Fullerton Journey Church’s worship and social media teams. After graduation, Guzman wants to serve in ministry, although right now she isn’t sure how.
“It was a little scary moving away from home,” Guzman says. “But I’ve learned how to get along with other people in the dorm. I’ve learned how to love myself more so I can give grace to others.”
LABI President Marty L. Harris knows the small LABI can’t compete with the amenities offered by other schools.
Yet Harris is bullish on LABI’s intangibles.
“There is a sense of family here, a sense of community of language, culture, and food, a place to receive attention from faculty,” says Harris, 54. “If a student feels called to the missions or church leadership, LABI is a good fit.”