Community and Alumni Impact
Each semester, CSUMB service learning students contribute over 50,000 hours of service to over 300 schools, non-profit organizations, and government agencies in our tri-county region. While the hours of service are valuable, they are like the rich, organic soil in which seeds will blossom in the future. Here are some stories of the fruits that have grown through CSUMB’s service learning commitments in our region.
The 12-square blocks that form Salinas’ Chinatown are, literally and figuratively, cut off from much of the rest of the greater community. The area is blocked from a main thoroughfare by railroad tracks, and blocked from full participation with the rest of the City because of its reputation as a haven for illicit activity.
But change is happening!
California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) and the Salinas Downtown Community Board (SDCB), comprised of stakeholders in the neighborhood, including various houses of worship, nonprofit agencies that serve the homeless, community members, property owners and businesses, are all collaborating to determine the future of Chinatown. The theme for this Project is, “Creating a Thriving Community.”
In 2007, grant-contracted planners used a 19th-Century technique of French origin known as charrette (often used to describe the intense work done by art and architecture students to meet deadlines) to bring openness to the design definition process. Over 300 community members were involved in the experience, which resulted in the creation of the Chinatown Renewal Project Plan.
What has been envisioned includes condominiums over retail, outdoor cafes, a pedestrian bridge to re-connect Chinatown to the main area of Old Town Salinas, community parks, a single location for community/social services, consideration of traffic roundabouts, and transformation of all one-way streets to allow for two-way traffic.
Chinatown conditions have already improved because of the presence of CSUMB students, who are required to participate in service learning as part of their degree program, and community members engaged in urban transformation. Multiple signs proclaiming the area as a “drug free zone” have gone up in the neighborhood, and illicit activity is down, due not only to increased police presence, but also the cooperation between nonprofit agencies, community members, property owners and businesses.
Everyone’s Harvest was founded in 2002 by Iris Peppard building on her capstone project as a service learning student at CSU Monterey Bay. Since then, the small nonprofit has grown into a robust, values-driven 501(c)3 organization. It operates five certified farmers’ markets and is a catalyst for health-related programs across Monterey County. The mission is to provide access to healthy, affordable fruits and vegetables through certified farmers’ markets and community food programs. The vision is for every community to have a fair and sustainable food system.
The César Chávez Futból Academy (CCFA) was born with the vision of two CSUMB Service Learner college athletes who wanted to offer more to the community, Anthony Velazquez and Craig Sterling. After completing their service learning at the Cesar Chavez Library, they continued to offer after-school soccer and homework help for the children of the neighborhood. Today, ten years later, CCFA has four teams that compete state-wide at the highest level and run clinics and afterschool support for boys and girls of ages 5 to 18. The mission of the César Chávez Futból Academy is to provide opportunities for community youth and families to enhance their lives through academic success and the game of soccer.
A year of distance was accompanied by a variety of unforeseen challenges for service learning. With all K-12 school districts transitioning to online school, we as a department had to ask ourselves: How do we continue to tutor students remotely? Taking into consideration liability concerns, school districts were equally as challenged with bringing on service learners in an already unfamiliar environment. Regardless of all the obstacles, SLI was able to continue connecting university students to local K-12 programs amidst the pandemic. Additional insight on the Service Learning Institute's transition to online tutoring is detailed in Walter Ryce's article, "Tutoring Across Distance".