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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

California will award some 6,500 low-income college students –including undocumented AB 540 students (Dreamers)  – a stipend of $10,000 towards college costs in return for completing community service work.   

Students can enroll at or apply  through their universities and educational institutions, 48 of which are participating in the #CaliforniansforAll College Corps  program. Any student who qualifies for financial aid will be eligible to apply to the program.

Public services unites communities

At a May 12 EMS briefing, Josh Fryday, the California Chief Service Officer who supervises the program, explained that Governor Gavin Newsom recognized that financial pressures often force students to take jobs rather than engage in community service.  But the All-College Corps program is designed to tackle some of the biggest issues that impact society and unite people in their communities.

It’s an “unprecedented investment into service and career opportunities for our students and especially our low-income students around the state,” said Fryday. The program creates debt-free pathways for these students, while helping them develop professional skills and create networks that they don’t usually have access to.

Fryday called the program an opportunity “not just transform lives personally but also to unite people, to share a common experience and a common purpose.”

Regina Wilson, executive director of California Black Media said that this groundbreaking program would allow students to serve in their communities and engage in issues such as climate change, K-12 education, and Covid-19 recovery, while offsetting college costs and earning academic credit at the same time.

“They earn money and academic credit at the same time.”

How the All Corps Program helped Fernando Martinez

Fernando Martinez is a junior studying applied mathematics at San Jose University, one of 8 California universities to pilot the #CaliforniansforAll College Corps program.

Martinez, a Kansas native, did  not own a computer at home until high school because his parents could not afford one. Finance and technology were not a focus on my childhood, he added.

AT SJU, however, the financial assistance helped him focus his time and energy on classwork. As a SHSU Civic Action Fellow he works with underserved students on computer programs and coding and gives them one-on-one coaching on Zoom. local schools lacked modern technology and infrastructure.

Martinez acknowledged that the fellowship had given him opportunities to grow.

“I am fortunate enough to be interning at Robinhood, a financial investment company, this upcoming summer

Creating multiple opportunities for service

The transformative program has created multiple opportunities for service, remarked Ia Moua, Director of State and National Service, California Volunteers. She called its launch very timely, especially in the middle of a pandemic, global unrest, and economic and racial inequity. Moua pointed out that the program offered financial relief at a time when the exorbitant cost of books was contributing to a decline in community college enrollment.

Students who are selected into the program are awarded a total of $7,000 over the program and are expected to complete 450 hours of community service work. They will receive a grant of $3000 after completing the program to use for tuition  or other education costs.

The program is geared towards freshmen and newly enrolled students, but other programs available for graduate students..

Students who meet the eligibility requirements are selected from a large pool of applicants, from both community colleges and four-year colleges,

The community service program will help connect people in an increasingly disconnected world, said Lindsay Fox, CEO of United Way in Fresno and Madera County.

She hoped that the initiative would close the existing racial and generational wealth gap by focusing on both governmental and local agencies.

We are still in a crisis said Fox. “We’re still in a place where the racial wealth gap is so vast, where we have graduation rates starting to plummet. We have to be all hands-on deck.”

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Susheela Narayanan

Susheela Narayanan is a retired early childhood educator and Professor of Child Development from San Diego Mesa College. A longtime resident of San Diego, she is active in her community and with Rotary...