California’s College Corps program is a boon for students and the state –

Students in the community, state and UC systems will have the opportunity to earn up to $10,000 in return for one year of service to their communities. Photo UCSD

A pioneering program for college students in California took another step forward last week when Governor Gavin Newsom swore in more than 3,200 scholarship recipients as the latest cohort of the state’s College Corps scholarship.

The #CaliforniansForAll program, launched in response to COVID-19, is the first of its kind in the state. College students in the community, state and UC systems will have the opportunity to earn up to $10,000 in return for one year of service to their communities.

Service opportunities include tutoring and mentoring for low-income students in K-12 schools, distributing food to people facing food insecurity, or fighting climate change.

The program is for low-income students to help ease the financial burden of a college education. Eighty percent of scholarship recipients are from communities of color, 58% are first-generation college students, and 68% are eligible for the Pell Scholarship. It is also the first state-mandated program specifically allocating spaces to AB-540 students, or Dreamers.

A press conference hosted by Ethnic Media Services and California Black Media featured Josh Fryday, Director of California Services, and Debbie Espinosa of Find Food Bank, part of Feeding America. Two of the program’s scholarship students, Ali Alani of UC San Diego and Wendi Lizola of Sacramento State University also joined the panel.

“They will do an amazing job for our communities,” Fryday said, stressing the importance of the program, which he described as a victory for society and the state, creating a generation of service-oriented professionals at a time. where California — and the nation — faces a host of critical challenges.

Some 10,000 applications have already been submitted for the program, three times more than there are slots available. Participating students were selected by their respective campuses through a competitive application program. Students who were not selected this year may reapply in subsequent years. The program is expected to continue until 2026.

“We need to be able to ensure, through a multifaceted approach, that people are empowered to break cycles of poverty,” said Espinosa, who works with Palm Springs-based Deserts Regional Foodbank and distributes more than 20 million pounds of food to 150,000 people per month. .

College Corps Fellows will help deliver food to students and families in a variety of settings, from packing in the warehouse to distributing food on campus or at community sites.

Espinosa says learning loss among California students during Covid has been exacerbated by growing food insecurity, noting that 98% of the customers they serve are working families and seniors. Less than 2% are homeless people.

She adds that the program will provide students with a variety of transferable skills while creating tangible change for their peers and community.

“My goal with College Corps is to help students,” said Alani, who was born in Syria and educated in Saudi Arabia. He and his family immigrated to San Diego when he was 16. Alani is now a sophomore in a software engineering major at UC San Diego, where he discovered the College Corps through an email from his university.

“It helped me focus on my studies while helping me pay for my education,” he said.

Alani will work with K-12 students in San Diego, saying he hopes to have the kind of impact on students that his own teachers have had on his life. “I really hope to do the same,” he said.

Wendi Lizola is a first generation undocumented student who came to California with her parents and two older sisters as a child. During the briefing, she recalled how her family worked seven days a week, from four in the morning until eleven at night, washing cars at car dealerships.

Lizola struggled at school at first because she didn’t understand English. “I remember being frustrated with myself,” she said.

It was an experience that led her to join the College Corps, which gave her the opportunity to connect with students who also face barriers to education due to language. She said the experience makes it very personal. “It is very rare that such an opportunity is offered to our AB-540 students,” she noted, in reference to Dreamers.

Lizola is studying to become a pediatric nurse at Sacramento State University. It was there during a workshop where she applied for the program. She was shocked by the level of student interest and seeing the response across the state, she feels very lucky to be part of the program.

“It was like a miracle, it was just able to cover everything I needed,” she said. She has nothing to pay out of pocket. Alani also said that he was able to pay all of his tuition with this financial aid.

“I would definitely encourage students to apply for this program,” Lizola said.

Applications for the 2022-2023 school year are closed. But students interested in applying can fill out this form to receive notification when applications reopen for the 2023-2024 school year.

Students interested in embarking on volunteer opportunities sooner can sign up for the #CaliforniansForAllmailinglist which provides regular updates on service opportunities in your community. (by Abigail LeForge/Ethnic Media Services) not

Ryan H. Bowman