Campus: California State University, Fullerton -- December 14, 2005

Cal State Fullerton Receives HUD Grant to Help Improve Quality of Life for Local Residents in Poor Neighborhood

A good neighbor to residents of a low-income area in central Fullerton is what Cal State Fullerton aims to become, according to Donald S. Castro, special assistant to Cal State Fullerton President Milton A. Gordon.

With a $599,525 grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the university will expand the Valencia Community Center — doubling its present size — and offer free services, such as civics classes, leadership training and English lessons.

The three-year project will involve the Fullerton Collaborative, a coalition of partners — Cal State Fullerton, Fullerton College, the city of Fullerton, Fullerton School District, St. Jude Medical Center and the Valencia Task Force. Students and volunteers will make up the majority of the staff that will provide the services, and Castro will serve as the project’s director.

The residents who will benefit are those who live in the Richman Park neighborhood, an area bordered by Harbor Boulevard, the 91 Freeway, and Commonwealth and Woods avenues. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 6,447 people live there, and the average median income is $36,645.

Many of the adult residents are poor, have little or no formal education, few job skills and speak little or no English, Castro noted.

“The fundamental problem faced by residents of the central Fullerton area is that there is very limited space for the provision of services to meet the needs of the community,” he said. “Many residents lack automobiles and, therefore, have difficulty in being able to go to off-site providers.”

As part of the project, CSUF will purchase two 12-foot-by-60-foot modular units that will be attached to the existing Valencia Community Center in Richman Park.

“The facility expansion will provide for dedicated rooms for computer instruction, teenage use, storage space for toys and other materials used for the preschool and after-school programs, one-on-one tutoring and more use by children and their parents,” Castro said.

The expansion and a remodel of the existing building are expected to be complete by next fall. Then, computer labs will open to Richman Park area parents, and CSUF and Fullerton College students will conduct technology workshops in Spanish and English to teach how to use the Internet to obtain college and university eligibility, admissions and financial aid information.
Other services planned include:

  • The formation of a parent group called Padres Promotores de la Educacion (Parent Advocates for Education). Members will be parents of junior high and high school students who will be trained to convey information about the school system, requirements for graduation and retention and higher education options to their peers through home visits, informal neighborhood presentations and church or block association meetings.

  • A CreditSmart program, which will be geared to helping potential homeowners learn how to manage their money, establish and maintain credit and plan for the future.

  • Vocational and career training workshops that will help residents develop programs related to safe neighborhoods, such as a junior cadet-type program. The workshops also will help residents learn about landscape design by participating in the creation and maintenance of a community garden. Residents will be taught how to set up business systems and develop technology skills. English-as-a-second-language classes will be offered, along with sessions on how to mount publicity campaigns and promote a positive community image.

  • Civic education classes devoted to what it means to be an American citizen will be conducted. The curriculum will include an overview of American history, customs and culture. It also will prepare interested pupils on what it takes to become a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

At the same time CSUF will be adding to and remodeling the Valencia Community Center, St. Jude Medical Center will build a 5,000-square-foot clinic next to it and provide staff to offer medical and social services, such as prenatal and pediatric care, urgent care, chronic disease management, health education and mental health counseling. The clinic will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and services will be free.

The clinic will serve as a venue for Cal State Fullerton’s obesity prevention program and other wellness programs, which are sponsored by the departments of nursing and kinesiology. The main purpose of the project, noted Castro, is to empower Richman Park’s area residents.

“This is a community in need, a community that is not receiving the kinds of services it needs, and this project will help citizens in central Fullerton become more self-sufficient, financially sound, English proficient, technologically adept and develop skills in a variety of areas and take advantage of educational opportunities,” he said. “The project demonstrates Cal State Fullerton’s commitment to serving its community and being a good neighbor.”

Cal State Fullerton earned high marks from HUD for its grant application for the project.
“The application process was highly competitive, and your institution’s success indicates a strong capacity to make a difference in the lives of the students and the community you serve,” noted Harold L. Bunce, HUD’s deputy assistant secretary for economic affairs.

Media Contacts: Donald S. Castro at (714) 278-3231 or dcastro@fullerton.edu
Mimi Ko Cruz of Public Affairs at (714) 278-7586 or mkocruz@fullerton.edu


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