Californians For All College Corps

In January 2022,  Governor Gavin Newsom and California’s college and university systems launched #CaliforniansForAll College Corps, the largest  state-funded college service program in California history.

The program is intended to give up to 6,500 college students the opportunity to serve in their communities over two academic years, and receive a $10,000  stipend while gaining valuable experience. Fellows would work in critical issue areas such as climate action, K-12 education, and COVID-19 recovery.

At the time, Newsom announced, “The #CaliforniansForAll College Corps advances these priorities by connecting Californians of different backgrounds with enriching service opportunities throughout the state while making college more affordable for our state’s future leaders.”

The Next Cohort of Fellows

In October, Newsom swore in 3200 students who became the latest cohort of Californians For All College fellows.

One of the recipients this year was Ali Alani, a Syrian immigrant and second-year student fellow at UC San Diego, who is working towards an Engineering and Entrepreneurship degree. Alani will participate in the AVID program for online students in twelve schools in the large San Diego Unified School District.

At an October 11 EMS media briefing, Alani said his aim was to inspire students to study further and pursue their goals for college education. This program will help to fund his own college education.

A Win-Win Situation

Josh Fryday, the California Chief Services Officer who supervises the program, explained it had been a win-win situation for many low-income students, but especially for AB 540 eligible Dreamers.  The college corps program was the first time California had created state-funded service opportunities for a population that has been marginalized too often, said Fryday.

The program received almost 10,000 thousand applicants for 3000 slots, noted Fryday, indicating the desire of this generation to serve their community. Students who were not selected this time around can reapply to the program which will run till 2026. Other states now want to adopt and follow this model, he added.

Service Opportunities

Corps fellows assisted in food distribution to food-insecure communities, said Debbie S. Espinosa, President & CEO, FIND Food Bank from Central California. Many DACA students availed of the food bank services which focused on access to healthy food.

Wendi Lizola, a DACA student studying nursing at Sacramento State University explained that her undocumented family were very food insecure. Because of their DACA status, her family washed cars to make money as they had limited working opportunities in their community.

Mireya Olivera confirmed that more than 500 AB 540 CA Dream Act students were enrolled in the food program.  Almost 50% of the food distributed was fresh fruits and vegetables, said Espinosa, with the balance being a combination of protein, dairy and other foods.  She added that FIND try to limit the amount of foods that fall outside of the USDA My Plate recommendation of healthy eating to less than 20% of what is distributed to the community.

College Corps Program a Godsend

For her fellowship, Lizola was placed as a tutor in a middle school where she hopes to be an inspiration and role model to other young students. Lizola called the program a godsend to her and her family.

Both Lizola and Alami acknowledge that the 10K grant helped ease the financial burden of a college education.

Fryday confirmed that the College Corps  program would continue to be funded next year even if there was an economic downturn.

“It’s an amazing program serving amazing students, he said.”

A list of participating campuses can be found at the following site: www.californiavolunteers.cagov/californians.

Photo by Matese Fields on Unsplash

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...