College Corps expands student community service

Two people sitting at a desk looking at a book.

College Corps Director Francine Redada and fellow RJ Rossi

University of the Pacific will expand its commitment to community service and experiential learning this year as one of only four private institutions of 48 total schools selected to participate in the burgeoning #CaliforniansForAll College Corps program.

The program blends field and classroom learning opportunities with high-impact community service. Pacific was one of the inaugural universities to take part in the program, a state-led effort that was launched in the 2020-21 school year. The first cohort of 10 fellows increased to 27 the following year and will expand to 100 Pacific students this year. 

The students, who will work for 20 different local non-profits, community organizations, school districts and other agencies, will be sworn in as fellows at an induction ceremony Aug. 19.

Pacific will receive up to $3.2 million over the next two years to support the students, who will earn $10,000 for college expenses when they complete a full year of service.

“This will have a big impact on our communities, as well as our students and their careers,” said Maria Pallavicini, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs

“I grew up around a lot of poverty and I know there are people in need. We can be part of the solution,” said fellow RJ Rossi ’24, a third-year student from Ceres in the Central Valley majoring in political science. “The size of our College Corps group and the commitment I have seen from those enrolled puts us in a good position to make a difference.” 

Rossi created a virtual space where College Corps fellows supported one another and hosted a book club throughout the summer in preparation for their service.

Fellows will serve in one of four focus areas: K-12 education, climate action, food insecurities and community health. Among the new community partners are Lodi Unified School District, the Emergency Food Bank of San Joaquin County and St. Mary’s Dining Room.

“These are not really internships as much as they are reciprocal relationships that build bonds between the student, the university, the faculty and staff and community partners,” said Francine Redada who was recently hired to lead College Corps. 

“The community response has been tremendous. They [agency leaders] are as excited as we are,” said Dari Tran, professor of political science and faculty director of College Corps. 

Added Marylou Bagus-Hansen, program manager: “The sheer size of this cohort with 100 students makes it different than the past. The group will be unique, but there still will be unifying themes and opportunities to make a difference.”

Making a community impact

Public Health Advocates, a local non-profit that works on social, health, political and economic policies, will participate for the third consecutive year. The agency will increase to five fellows for the upcoming cycle from two in past years.

“The program has been a great help to us,” said La Toya McNeil, administrative manager. “We have a youth campaign, and we advocate for health and wellness for communities of color. The students are helping us make an impact.”

Darlene Meza ’22 served with El Concilio California, a non-profit that works with the Hispanic community, during the fall of 2021. They worked with agency leadership to develop LGBTQIA+ training for staff and to increase community engagement. Meza was hired for a full-time position after graduation.

Abha Patkar ’22 spent last fall semester with PUENTES, a Stockton agency that works to combat food deserts while fostering social entrepreneurship, education and motivation to break cycles of food insecurity.

“I do not have a green thumb at all. But I was so glad that I was with this agency. I learned about helping those who are hungry,” said Patkar, who earned a degree in biology. “There was a connection to the community. It was very rewarding to be able to give the community my service.”

First-year student Miranda Duarte, who will study music composition at Pacific, anticipates a fulfilling experience.

“At first my interest in College Corps was because of the financial aid component. But as I learned more about the program, I became am very excited to help serve in Stockton,” Duarte said. “I can’t wait to get started.”