Campus: CSU, Northridge -- February 10, 2000

CSUN Receives $400,000 to Give Young People the Skills to Build Healthier Communities

Cal State Northridge has received more than $400,000 from The California Endowment to develop a volunteer program that will give young people the skills to go back into their communities and change them for the better.

The three-year grant for $407,681 will be administered by CSUN's DuBois-Hamer Institute and fund the creation of the Partnerships Empowering Youth to Serve (PEYS) program, which university officials hope will become a national model for youth volunteer training.

"We want to be able to train young people so that they see themselves as agents of change," said Barbara Rhodes, coordinator of the DuBois-Hamer Institute who will oversee the new PEYS program. "They will be able to go into the community, see areas of concern, and have the skills and resources available so they will be able to tackle the issues of community wellness head-on."

David Horne, chair of the Pan African Studies Department where the DuBois-Hamer Institute is housed, agreed.

"CSUN is very big about training students to be good citizens, " Horne said. "This grant will go toward accomplishing that goal."

Rhodes came up with the PEYS program after surveying 250 community-based organizations and asking them what they felt was lacking in their communities. Overwhelmingly, those who responded said there was a need for volunteer training and an increase in the number of people who volunteered in the workplace, particularly people of color.

Using the survey results as a foundation, Rhodes developed a program that will work with a community-based advisory board to develop and implement a curriculum that will respond to a community's identified needs.

The program will then train a cadre of high school and college student volunteers, with a focus on African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Pacific Islanders, who will go back into the community and work with community-based organizations.

As part of their training, Rhodes said, the student volunteers will have to convene meetings between community groups and work on two community projects, developed by the students.

The PEYS program also will develop materials and a training manual so the program can be replicated anywhere in the United States.

"What's so exciting is that we hope to give the students the skills to really make a change in their communities," Rhodes said. "And when they graduate from the program, I hope they will have a sense that they can make a difference and they will continue to volunteer throughout their lives."

Horne called the grant from The California Endowment a "fantastic affirmation" of the work being done by Rhodes, who has spent more than a dozen years working informally with her students to provide them with the skills necessary to be successful volunteers in their communities through the DuBois-Hamer Institute and its Teen Mentor Program.

Rhodes said it was her work with the Teen Mentor Program that spurred the creation of the PEYS program.

"It was our students who realized there was a need out there and urged us to do something about it," she said.

The California Endowment was established in May 1996 as a private foundation. It maintains offices in Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco and has staff working throughout the state.

The Endowment's mission is to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. The Endowment makes grants to organizations and institutions that directly benefit the health and well-being of the people of California.

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