Campus: CSU Bakersfield -- March 20, 2002

University helps K-12 students learn to serve their community

In its ongoing mission to promote higher education among Kern County school age children, California State University, Bakersfield on Monday, April 1, will launch "A Vision to Serve," a cooperative program between CSUB and the Governor's Office of Service and Volunteerism (GO SERV).

The program uses grant funds received by CSUB from GO SERV and the Cesar Chavez Foundation to provide Kern County students, grades K-12, an opportunity to be involved in community service learning projects. The projects include activities designed to honor the work of Cesar E. Chavez and advocate his values such as service to others, sacrifice, preference to help the most needy, determination, non-violence, tolerance, respect for life and environment, celebration of community, knowledge and innovation.

In its first year to receive funding, CSUB obtained a $126,706 grant. It is the largest award among all CSU campuses receiving funding for this grant and the second highest award of all community service learning grants issued in California.

The grant funds will be shared by 10 Kern County schools, and more than 7,300 school age children will benefit from participation in the program.

Edwin H. Sasaki, CSUB's associate vice president for academic affairs and dean for undergraduate studies, who spearheaded the grant proposal, said the program would benefit not only school age children but university students as well.

"I think the benefit is two-fold: it will help us establish stronger relationships with our local schools by getting our students involved all the way down to the elementary school level," Sasaki said. "It also gets those (K-12) students more involved with CSUB and helps to get them prepared academically and more motivated to succeed academically and go on to a college education."

Sasaki added that more than 50 percent of the K-12 students participating in the program fall within a class of students who do not typically aspire to achieve a college education.

Each of the participating schools volunteered to take part in this year's program. They are lead school Cesar E. Chavez Elementary School, Evergreen Elementary, McKinley Elementary, Juliet Thorner Elementary, Emerson Middle, and Rafer Johnson Community Day schools, Richland Primary, Intermediate and Junior High schools and Shafter High School.

CSUB is the coordinating agency for the grant funds and will serve as fiscal agent. CSUB will also provide services from faculty members and more than 70 students from the education, child development and psychology departments. They will work closely with each of the schools to develop curriculum and provide assistance in the training and education of the K-12 students.

As part of the grant proposal process, a team composed of CSUB and BCSD staff and students conducted school site meetings and brainstorming activities to develop programs that would augment student achievement and support the California education standards.

This year's projects include community beautification, habitat preservation, cultural activities, recycling projects and community gardens. A combination of some or all of these activities will be conducted at each school.

In addition to the short-term activities, some schools are using their funds to initiate long-term projects such as constructing greenhouses and developing community gardens.

Once constructed, the students will plant and harvest their vegetables. They will then sell one-half of their produce at local farmer's markets and use the money to help maintain the greenhouses and plots. The remaining half of their harvest will be distributed to needy families in their communities.

As a way to celebrate community and foster tolerance, students from Juliet Thorner Elementary plan to create a mural highlighting the influence of important community leaders in the San Joaquin Valley.

The Cesar Chavez grant funds are renewable each year and CSUB officials hope to make participation in the community learning service projects an annual program.

In conjunction with the Cesar Chavez Day of Service and Learning, CSUB officials will host a special public GO SERV sponsored event on April 1 to commemorate the initiation of the Kern County program at the Mercado Latino, 2105 Edison Highway, Bakersfield. Festivities begin at 10 a.m. and should conclude by12:30 p.m.

CSUB President Tomas A. Arciniega, along with several distinguished speakers and students involved in the community service learning programs, will make brief presentations addressing the universal values of Cesar Chavez. Arciniega will be joined by Kern County Supervisor Pete Parra, Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall, school superintendents Larry Reider, Kern County Superintendent of Schools; Bill Hatcher, Kern High School District; and Jean Fuller, Bakersfield City School District; and students from Cesar Chavez Elementary and Rafer Johnson Community Day schools.

The formal ceremony will be followed by music, dances and drill team performances by students from the participating schools. In addition, the students' art and literary works developed as part of their community service learning projects will be displayed.

The Cesar Chavez Day of Service and Learning program is part of a multitude of related, statewide events that are sponsored by GO SERV.

Sasaki said CSUB is excited about its participation in the program as it supports one of Arciniega's long-term goals to make education more available to minorities and less-privileged children in Kern County.

"I think the Cesar Chavez grant is another mechanism by which we can increase the academic success of all students and especially students in this class, and show them that a college education is not only beneficial but obtainable." Sasaki said.


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