A year of community service can help college students in multiple ways, according to organizers who recently spoke to reporters during a joint California Black Media/Ethnic Media Services zoom call.

“We really see this program as being a win-win-win for students, for the community and for all of society,” said Josh Fryday, chief service officer for the California for All Corps.

The California College Corps program, which will launch this fall, will take place in 48 selected colleges throughout the state. Those colleges will choose 6500 enrolled undergraduate students to participate in community service areas for 15 hours per week during the school year, where they can gain professional skills. 

In exchange, those students will receive $10,000  over time to go toward their rent, tuition, books or other college expenses.

“That 10 grand is really important,” Fryday explained, noting that the program is for college students who are already eligible for financial aid. “That’s the gap that all Pell Grant students have to come up with.”

The list of 48 colleges participating in the program can be found at www.cacollegecorps.com and includes a variety of California institutions — some private colleges, some from the UC and CSU systems and some community colleges. Students can apply online for the program, or complete an application through counselors at one of the chosen campuses.   

Community action jobs can range from assisting with fire mitigation efforts during the statewide drought, to helping distribute groceries at a local food bank. College students are also needed to act as tutors and mentors for young children.

“Students can stay in school, graduate on time and graduate with less debt,” Fryday said. “And also benefit communities in significant ways.”  

The new program is funded for two and a half years by the state and it is hoped that it can be expanded to include additional colleges and universities. Indeed, the hope is that it can eventually be scaled to become nationwide in scope.

“The governor wants this program to be sustainable and become a model for the nation,”  Friday added, noting the issues the country is facing — homelessness, food insecurity, divisions in democracy — could be best solved by people working together. 

“Service transforms lives personally but also unites people,” he said.

Lindsy Fox, president and CEO of United Way Fresno and Madera Counties agreed.

“Our long-term plan is toward closing the racial wealth gap,” she said. “Insuring generational wealth — we believe higher education is a pathway to that.”

Fox noted that college enrollment for Black men has gone down quite a bit in recent years, due to a variety of reasons, including the expense of tuition and books and the current pandemic.  

“We need to break through this covid fog that seems to hang over our lives,” she said. “Collegecorps provides financial incentive to go to college and helps take down financial barriers. This is a way to actually make money while going to college.” 

Organizers feel that the launch of collegecorps could not be more timely and they are hoping to create additional opportunities for students in coming years towards the transformation of a more caring California.

“This is going to help us create powerful and prepared leaders, civically engaged and committed to strengthening our communities,” Fryday said. “No other state in the country is investing in this way.”

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