Serving Campus & Community
February 7, 2013
By Elizabeth Chapin
High school teachers and college professors helped CSU Long Beach student Jerry Rivero discover his voice. Now he’s using it to empower Latino communities throughout Los Angeles County.
The first generation college student is one of 20 student fellows selected by the California Campus Compact (CACC), an organization dedicated to strengthening higher education’s public service role in California. This year, the CACC launched its first student fellowship program—four CSU students were among those selected to take part in the four-month initiative.
Through the program, the student leaders will get support to advance service learning on their campus and in their community. The students—two from Humboldt State and two from CSU Long Beach—have already teamed up to identify their goals.
Humboldt State student fellows Jimmy Barnett and Madalyn Walker will be working on a campus collaboration with a local food pantry, as well as strengthening HSU’s existing “Volunteer Trails Steward” program. The Long Beach students will identify new service-learning opportunities for the campus, and assist with civic engagement training for emerging leaders in Los Angeles’ underrepresented Latino communities—something fourth-year CSULB student Rivero is passionate about.
“As a Latino youth, I feel that I didn’t have a person such as myself who represented me and my community,” Rivero said. “I want to be that person to those in and around these communities.”
Rivero says leadership training makes an impact in low-income Latino communities because it gives kids that don’t have a role model someone to look up to. He says that could determine whether or not young adults go on to college.
“Igniting the flame of civic engagement strengthens these communities and sets them up for success,” Rivero said.
Involving students in such entrepreneurial work is not only a valuable community service—it’s also good preparation for their own careers. With the CSU’s systemwide Center for Community Engagement, the CACC is another powerful ally in facilitating student involvement in campus-community partnerships.
“The California Campus Compact and the CSU Chancellor’s Office have enjoyed a strong collaborative partnership in advancing civic engagement in California,” says Elaine Ikeda, executive director of the CACC. “Our efforts to advance higher education policy supporting service-learning and civic engagement have been enhanced through this partnership.”
Ikeda says the partnership has also helped to create other opportunities like the student fellowships.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to support and recognize the outstanding students who are dedicated to making a difference in their communities through the student fellows program.”
CACC is part of a national network of more than 1,100 members of the campus compact, which was founded in 1985 by education leaders who were fed up with the stereotype that college students were self-absorbed.
CSU Long Beach’s other fellow, Vivian Xiuzhen Cai, is another CSU student proving that stereotype wrong. In 2003, Cai’s family immigrated to the US from China to seek a better life.
“In China my parents would not have been able to afford to send my sister and me to school beyond middle school,” Cai said.
Now a senior at CSULB, Cai was granted US citizenship in 2012, and she says giving back to the community is her way to show appreciation for all of the opportunities she has had here. In one of her service experiences, Cai volunteered at a local homeless shelter, where she and other campus volunteers put up a playground in only one day.
“The fact we were able to give those kids some normalcy in their lives by giving them a place to play was a strong reminder of how fortunate we are and how important it is to give back.”