Students attending the Valley’s two public universities will now be able to earn money for college by giving back to their communities through a new pilot initiative.
Stanislaus State and University of California, Merced, are two of eight colleges to take part in the Civic Action Fellowship — grant funding unveiled by California Volunteers on Monday that allows students to sign up as Americorps Fellows and commit to community service tailored toward their curriculum. The first-in-the-nation program utilizes a combination of federal and state funding and will award students up to $10,000 to put toward their education in exchange for one semester working with a local nonprofit or government office.
The eight universities will welcome nearly 250 students into the initial cohort in fall 2020, with 47 of those spots earmarked for Stanislaus State students to promote college and career readiness. At UC Merced, 24 students will provide literacy coaching to Merced County youth.
“Engagement with K-12 schools in our region has been a part of UC Merced's mission since its inception, and our students have always been at the core of that engagement,” UC Merced interim Chancellor Nathan Brostrom said. “This exciting new program will improve literacy among Valley children, while also giving UC Merced students invaluable experience and lessening their student loan debt. We are proud to be a part of this effort.”
Stanislaus State President Ellen Junn said the ability to pay students for public service is fitting given the university’s existing programs that help give back. During the 2018-2019 academic year, about 40 percent of Stanislaus State undergrads were enrolled in one of the university’s 193 course sections that include service learning components, such as student teaching or the campus mentorship program.
More than 3,300 Stanislaus State students accounted for nearly 70,000 hours of public service last year — most of it in and around the Turlock community.
“The ability to compensate students financially for their civic engagement will enable our university to increase our hands-on contribution of time and effort in our community,” Junn said. “I can think of no greater way to enhance the lives and experiences of our students at Stan State.”
At UC Merced, students selected for the year-long program will be housed together in a “Living Learning Community” and take courses together during the 2020-2021 academic year. They’ll be trained to provide literacy coaching for kindergarten through third grade students at six Merced County schools: four in Merced, one in Planada and one in Farmdale.
Elaine Keeley, director of curriculum and instruction for the Merced City School District, said the grant will help “instill the love of reading and individualized instruction in our young students.”
“UC Merced students who serve as AmeriCorps leaders will also serve as positive role models and develop a college career-ready culture with our students,” Keeley said. “The UC students learn the gift and privilege of teaching another person to read — a life skill that changes futures.”
Approximately $3.2 million in state and federal funds will support the Civic Action Fellowship initiative with an additional $677,000 in scholarship funds to be awarded directly to students upon completion of their fellowship. The program is part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s vision of reaching 10,000 people in the state formally committed to public service.
“Governor Newsom has laid out a bold vision to unite Californians around service and provide opportunities for every Californian to help tackle our greatest challenges,” California Volunteers Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday said. “We hope this new partnership with universities will become a model for calling on young people to serve, while helping them pay for college.”