Pacific students prepared to help community health flourish through service program.
“I want to help my community grow, and I aspire to learn and flourish into the best version of myself I can possibly be.”
Semaj Martin ’22 is “always proud” to say she is a Stockton native.
Alexis Ortiz ’22 has an “ultimate goal” to help her hometown of Stockton flourish and reach its potential.
Ezaura Mazza ’22, on the other hand, is from the East Coast. But she sees so much in common with her hometown of Brockton, Massachusetts, that she feels driven to serve in Stockton.
They are part of a cohort of 10 Pacific students who will meld their college educations with community service as part of the California Civic Action Program at University of the Pacific. They’ll be joined by fellows from seven other California universities and colleges.
The partnership with California Volunteers and AmeriCorps will expand Pacific’s longstanding commitment to community service while giving the 10 students—and 10 more to join in the second year of the program—immersive opportunities to serve Stockton’s vulnerable populations.
The statewide program is funded by $3.2 million in state and federal funds, with an additional $667,000 in scholarship funds awarded to students after they complete the fellowship. There is a diverse mix of private and public universities which will combine for more than 200 AmeriCorps fellows.
“I want to help my community grow, and I aspire to learn and flourish into the best version of myself I can possibly be,” Ortiz said.
The fellows were sworn in Aug. 20 in a virtual induction ceremony attended by Pacific President Christopher Callahan, Provost Maria Pallavicini, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, California's Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday, community partners and Pacific staff.
“This is really a partnership between the state and universities to build a culture of service throughout California,” said Fryday, who led the swearing-in ceremony. “This program we are celebrating today was made possible because the legislature and the governor have invested in increasing AmeriCorps.”
The fact that the Pacific program will be called “Healthy Futures” is significant, Fryday said.
“You all, as fellows, will be stepping in to do work on health disparities in probably the most significant time in our country’s history around these issues,” he said. “The work you are going to be doing is literally going to save lives.”
Tubbs emphasized the importance of serving those in need.
“To the fellows, I thank you for your leadership,” he said. “It’s apparent now more than ever that service and thinking about other people and providing for basic needs is a necessity. The work you are doing is always important, but especially now.”
Pacific’s fellows—six of them from Stockton—will be assigned to three local agencies:
- El Concilio with its nutrition education program;
- Puentes/Boggs Tract Community Farm with its school garden;
- Sow a Seed Community Foundation with its Bright Futures Youth Mentoring Program.
“Our vision is this: University of the Pacific’s Healthy Futures program working in collaboration with our partners will make a measurable difference in improving the health awareness and outcomes for Stockton children and youth by leveraging the skill, time and energy of our undergraduates,” said Edie Sparks, vice provost for undergraduate education and director of the new program at Pacific.
Dari Tran, professor of political science, has worked with community partners to craft the service projects and to develop a robust training and mentoring program.
“Through Dr. Tran’s course this fall, student fellows will learn about the American urban context, inter-governmental policy making, community power and resources, cultural humility and construction communicating,” Sparks said.
The other seven universities and colleges taking part are Dominican University of California, California Lutheran University, the Berkeley and Merced campuses of University of California and the Stanislaus, San Jose and Los Angeles campuses of California State University.
“How did this program come to be at Pacific?” provost Pallavicini said. “A friend of mine, President Mary Marcy at Dominican University, reached out and described a very successful service project between Dominican and the city of Novato. Mary wondered if Pacific, given our commitment and track record of community service, would be interested in a similar project in the Stockton community. I enthusiastically said yes.
“This took a lot of phone calls and meetings and work by many people. AmeriCorps is a national service program that has always had tremendous impact with service in our country. We are proud to be part of this program.”
Pacific President Callahan, in his opening remarks, called this “a proud day for the university.”
“This is a commitment for a truly transformative learning experience for our students,” he said.
Biographies of the 10 California Civic Action Fellowship students (in their words):
Angelica Ameral-Thornton ’21
I am a senior in the Community Involvement Program. I was interested in the Civic Action Fellowship because I am a Stockton native who has received a lot of help from the community. I want to give back. The one word that would describe me is ambitious.
Cassia Arias ’21
I am a sociology major and English, writing, and pre-law minor. One word that describes me and my view on life is favored. I say this because despite mistakes that I have made I have undeservingly received favor from my family, my community and my heavenly Father, Jesus Christ. Because of this favor I feel immensely blessed to share what I have with my community and give the kind of love and support I have been given. I chose to join the California Civic Action Fellows to better get to know and meet the needs of my community. It is my civic duty to know my community and not turn a blind eye when one of my brothers or sisters is in need.
Lauren Crook ’21
I am a third-generation Stocktonian who is invested in improving and participating in the community that I have been able to be a part of since childhood. I was a truck driver for 10 years until I began my education at San Joaquin Delta College and transferred to Pacific. I have a 15-year-old son who I also hope to inspire to be involved in the Stockton community and become a civically engaged citizen. I am participating in the California Civic Action Fellows program because it is a vehicle to help me be more involved and to make a positive impact in the town that I am so passionate about.
Amity Fideldy ’21
I am a returning Stockton native. I am a senior at Pacific studying sociology and gender studies. My community internship is with Boggs Tract Community Farm serving in an underfunded, under-educated community in need of attention and care. My one word is community, which includes family, friends and neighbors in your local and cultural communities.
Aatikah Jaweed ’22
I am currently a junior psychology major. I am looking forward to this journey as a civic fellow, especially being able to engage in service learning. I am originally from the Bay Area but moving to Stockton for school truly opened my eyes to real-world issues such as poverty, homelessness, lack of basic resources, domestic violence, mental health, etc. I am super excited to be a part of this fellowship and hopefully help be the positive change that is needed in this community.
Semaj Martin ’22
I'm always proud to mention that I'm a Stockton native and product of Cesar Chavez High School. I'm also in love with my major, which is sociology, and I decided to minor in ethnic studies. I am passionate about serving my community and I always strive to be a planter of "fruit" for others to reap, which is also why my one word is prolific. I choose to spend my time participating in social justice movements and working with youth.
Ezaura Mazza ’22
I am from Brockton, Massachusetts, and my major is political science. After high school, I decided to dedicate a year of service with AmeriCorps doing City Year Milwaukee. During my year of service, I learned about the education gap and disparities young BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) face at school. I wanted to service the Stockton community because it reminds me so much of my hometown, and I hope that my past experience can help me see these young leaders grow. I hope to one day be in the Department of Education so I can make a systematic change to help bridge the gap.
Alexis Ortiz ’22
I am a first-generation college student studying sociology. As the daughter of two immigrants and a Stockton native, my ultimate goal is to help my community flourish into its full potential by sharing educational and public health services to the underrepresented. I want to help my community grow, and I aspire to learn and flourish into the best version of myself I can possibly be.
Xitlali Pacheco ’22
I'm a rising junior at University of the Pacific. I chose to do the fellowship because although I'm not from Stockton, I figured four years was a good enough time to help serve the community.
Tierra Smithson ’22
I am a third-year student at University of the Pacific majoring in political science and minoring in public policy and pre-law with a concentration in criminal justice. I am originally from Sparks, Nevada, and am a first-generation college student. I am actively involved on campus. I am an active member of Pacific’s competitive speech and debate team and I am the College of the Pacific senator for the Associated Students of the University of the Pacific. I am especially passionate about sustainable practices, whether they be in farming, technology or lifestyle choices, so this opportunity is perfect. I'm excited for to get started and am thankful for the opportunity.