Community service

California to pay students for community service

Cal State LA student volunteers help pack boxes of food at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank in Commerce, CA. (Photo: J. Emilio Flores/ Cal State LA)

California students who complete 450 hours of community service will receive $10,000 in cash and scholarships under an all-new state program, the first of its kind in the United States.

Students can apply at cacollegecorps.com or with the help of advisors from the 48 colleges and universities across the state enrolled in the #CaliforniansforAll College Corps program, a list that includes all of the UC and CSU systems, community colleges, and some private schools as well.

A total of 6,500 students will be accepted to start in the fall, with preference given to those from low-income backgrounds. “Dreamers”—eligible AB540 students who came to the United States as children—can apply.

The program offers a total of $7,000 in regular paychecks – plus $15 per hour for the work requirement – ​​and, upon completion, a $3,000 grant for tuition or other education-related costs.

For these 6,500 students, rather than having to drive for a ride-sharing company or work at a local mall, “this groundbreaking program allows them to pursue programs dedicated to climate change, K-12 education or to COVID recovery while serving in their own communities,” said Regina Wilson, executive director of California Black Media at a press conference announcing the program.

“They earn money and academic credit at the same time.” The press conference was co-hosted by Ethnic Media Services and California Black Media.

A “win, win, win” for students

“We really see this program as a win-win program,” said Josh Fryday, director of California services, who oversees California Volunteers, the governor’s office responsible for creating service, volunteer and engagement opportunities. civics in California.

Students obtain meaningful, paid work in their communities, suited to their educational goals. Service providers are getting help to do their valuable work, and communities are benefiting from these increased efforts, Fryday explained.

“Our students will focus on three main areas of service to their community,” he said. “One is about climate action. We’re going to see students doing everything from planting trees to helping with compost and mitigating fires across the state.

“We’re also going to see our students focus on food insecurity, which we know has increased dramatically during COVID,” he said, noting that “one of the greatest needs for food banks is volunteers”.

Third, he said, “our young people, especially in our low-income schools, are facing increased disparities in education, with learning loss as a result of COVID. So many of these students (College Corps) are going to be tutors and mentors in our low-income schools.

The program is open to 6,500 students — a number equal to the entire U.S. Peace Corps program — Fryday said, but “our intention is ultimately to expand this program to more students, to more universities and hopefully become a model for all. country.”

“Many of our universities target freshmen,” he added, “because we know that freshman is really the critical year where either students are able to stay in school and stay on track, either, due to financial burdens or other reasons, end delaying their education.

Lindsay Fox, President and CEO of United Way in Fresno and Madera Counties, explained how the program is intended to help “close the racial wealth gap.”

“We have identified further education, higher education and vocational training as one of the main ways to build generational wealth and advance prosperity. We believe higher education is a pathway to that,” she said.

But, she said, “we are seeing that college enrollment rates, especially community colleges, are dropping dramatically. In Fresno, we are seeing very significant drops in enrollment for people of color, especially black men. »

“So a program like College Corps removes any financial barriers that might be in place.”

“We really need to get back to the humanity of who we are and why we were put on this earth, quite frankly. It’s not to be of service to ourselves, it’s to be of service to others, where we find the greatest version of ourselves.

And, she added, “we have the added benefit of just creating better community service.”

The benefits of community service extend beyond its customers.

A “new sense of community”

Ia Moua, who arrived as a refugee from Vietnam when she was 9, now oversees the California AmeriCorps program, the nation’s largest, in its work for California Volunteers.

She described how her work for the Summer Bridge program, tutoring children while she was at university, changed her sense of personal identity from a Hmong-speaking foreigner living in a foreign country to a “proud American” in his own right.

“I gained a new sense of community,” she said.

“My family escaped persecution in the Vietnam War and resettled in the United States as refugees. Our early days of survival depended on the support of public assistance and my own personal and professional growth was shaped by the selfless act of teachers and mentors who guided me as I adapted and learned to navigate the life in a new country.

“This incredible privilege has given us a second chance at life,” she said.

Upon arriving from Kansas to study at San Jose State University, Fernando Martinez, 22, participated in a pilot program for College Corps, the Civic Action Fellows Program.

“I was looking for ways to get involved with my campus and my new community,” he said. “It provided me with both.”

The financial aid provided time and energy to focus on his lessons, he said, and enriched the computer programming of underserved children.

“It was through this program that I learned firsthand how much local school communities lack in areas such as technology and access to these STEM-related careers,” he said, and the opportunity to help other children grow up in situations similar to mine.

“For me, the most meaningful part of the scholarship is the genuine connections I have made with the children I mentor, to inspire them to pursue STEM and get me excited about college. You can see their creativity on flourish in ways they didn’t know they could.

“I can’t imagine not applying for the College Corps.”

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