Cal Lutheran to start AmeriCorps program

Cynthia Duarte, an assistant professor of sociology and director of Cal Lutheran’s Sarah W. Heath Center for Equality and Justice, will lead the program with the help of a community engagement specialist who will be hired.

Photo: Brian Stethem

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Feb. 18, 2020) California Lutheran University is one of eight universities partnering with the state of California on a first-in-the-nation program to help students pay for college through public service targeting pressing challenges in their region.

California Volunteers is coordinating the Civic Action Fellowship in partnership with Cal Lutheran; California State University, Los Angeles; California State University, Stanislaus; Dominican University of California; San Jose State University; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Merced; and University of the Pacific. 

“This will enable Cal Lutheran to build on its commitments to service learning and improving our community,” said President Chris Kimball. “The students selected as our AmeriCorps Fellows will serve as mentors, tutors and advisers for low-income and immigrant youths throughout Ventura County, partnering with existing organizations for the important work of improving educational outcomes for at-risk populations.”

An inaugural cohort of 25 AmeriCorps Fellows will help local organizations increase school completion rates for students and literacy rates for adults in low-income and immigrant communities in Ventura County. Upon completion of their fellowships, the students will receive up to $10,000 in federal and state scholarships and additional money from the university to help cover the cost of tuition and living allowances.

In fall, the fellows will participate in professional development training, learn about serving vulnerable populations, and connect with leaders at the organizations where they will intern. These are Cal Lutheran’s Rising Scholars Academy partnership with Moorpark College, the Safe Passage program run by the Thousand Oaks Police Department and Conejo Recreation and Park District, Oxnard College’s Omega Initiative for men of color, and the Mixteco/Indígena Community Organizing Project.

In spring, the fellows will dedicate 25 hours a week for 22 weeks to activities such as tutoring, developing and running extracurricular programs, and supervising field trips for students. They will also provide Spanish and English instruction for adult language learners. Concurrently, they will take a course focused on social justice theories, educational equity and community engagement. In summer, they will complete data collection and assessment reports.

Cynthia Duarte, an assistant professor of sociology and director of Cal Lutheran’s Sarah W. Heath Center for Equality and Justice, will lead the program with the help of a community engagement specialist who will be hired and Community Service Coordinator Madeline Liberti. 

Cal Lutheran will receive about $340,000 in grants to help fund the program. 

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