The University of Southern California announced Wednesday a $100,000-per-year grant for the Los Angeles Police Department’s cadet program, which offers mentorship, volunteer opportunities and leadership lessons to a growing number of young people aged 13-20.
USC President C.L. Max Nikias said the school plans to provide the annual support for “many, many years to come.”
The grant “speaks to USC’s confidence in these young women and men and our shared commitment, along with LAPD, to our community and its youth,” Nikias said. “These cadets are our future.”
LAPD Sgt. Albert Gonzalez said no end date was set for the grant.
Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger said the LAPD is “deeply grateful” for USC’s annual commitment, which will help the department “hold to our pledge of allowing cadets to participate and learn free-of-charge.”
The more than 50-year-old program has undergone a “seismic growth” in recent years, Paysinger said, and as a result, “the need for enhanced monetary support to fuel this crusade has never been any greater.”
The program is set to graduate 750 cadets this Saturday, the largest number in its history, during which more than 6,000 young people have participated, he said.
There are now cadet posts at all 21 police stations, as well as with the SWAT team, communications and traffic divisions, and airport police force, he said.
Paysinger said the program’s “primary objective” is not to “cultivate just police officers,” but to give young people tools “to be whoever they want to be and whatever they choose to be in life.”
Chief Cadet Laura Mendoza joined the Hollywood cadet post in 2010, at a time when she found herself surrounded by “gang activity, drug use and poverty.”
“That was the reality I lived in, but that reality didn’t have to be my future,” she said.
Mendoza, 19, graduated from Hollywood High School with a 4.1 GPA and now studies communications at Cal State University, Los Angeles.
Mendoza said she benefited from the encouragement of her fellow cadets and public speaking activities that helped her grow out of being a “shy little girl.”
“They helped me motivate myself and decide what I wanted to become in the future,” she said.