Pacific students sworn in for statewide fellowship program

Tierra Smithson

Tierra Smithson ’22 is one of 10 University of the Pacific fellows in the California Civic Action Fellowship program.

Tierra Smithson ’22 seeks to bridge two of her life passions—education and community.

Smithson has found the perfect vehicle in the California Civic Action Fellowship program. She is joined as a fellow in the program by nine other University of the Pacific students and dozens more at seven other private and public universities in California.

They were officially sworn in as fellows in a statewide virtual ceremony on Oct. 14. A previous ceremony was held for Pacific students who already have begun community work.

“Being a California Civic Action Fellow this past semester has meant being able to foster connections,” Smithson, who has been working at Boggs Tract Community Farm, said in a video played at the ceremony. “I am not a Stockton native, but I bring together my community and my education.”

Smithson said her work with the community farm has been rewarding, despite the fact that she is studying remotely (in Nevada). She appreciates the work of colleagues Lauren Cook ’21 and Amity Fideldy ’21.

“(We did) a virtual lesson with students from Unbound Stockton. For the lesson, we actually got to put together kits for the students and walk them through planting tomato seeds,” Smithson said. “Lauren and Amity were able to go to Boggs Tract in person because they live in Stockton.”

The California Civic Action Fellowship program is a partnership between universities and California Volunteers and AmeriCorps to create opportunities to serve vulnerable populations while earning money to help pay for college. 

The 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. The other seven universities and colleges 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. 

Pacific’s fellows are: Angelica Ameral-Thornton ’21 (Sociology), Cassia Arias ’21 (Sociology), Lauren Crook ’21 (English), Amity Fideldy ’21 (Sociology), Aatikah Jaweed ’22 (Psychology), ’22 (Sociology), Ezaura Mazza ’22 (Political Science), Alexis Ortiz ’22 (Sociology), Xitlali Pacheco ’22 (Political Science), Tierra Smithson ’22 (Political Science).

They have begun their service 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. 

Provost Maria Pallavicini and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Edie Sparks led the effort to secure Pacific’s place in the program. The students’ community work is coupled with a corresponding curriculum led by Dari Tran, professor of political science.

“It is only through partnerships across California that we are able to make a difference in helping our communities achieve goals,” Pallavicini said. “What works for us in this program is it is aligned with what we value. Across our university, we have many opportunities for our students to serve the community. But very few are associated with an active curriculum in helping students develop the skills for leadership. Ultimately we want them to become leaders in serving their communities.”

“You are all part of an unprecedented partnership in California between the state, AmeriCorps and public and private universities with the vision of creating opportunities for young Californians while helping make college affordable,” said Josh Fryday, California’s chief service officer, based in the governor’s office.

AmeriCorps CEO Barbara Stewart also attended the ceremony. “AmeriCorps is all about partnerships,” she said. “Thank you for your faith in this program.”