Image Courtesy of Christina Gonzales-Salgado

CPP students in the College Corps program earn money for their education and improve their community

By Oscar Huerta, Oct. 10, 2023

The state-funded financial aid program #CaliforniansForAll College Corps recently entered its second year of operation for the 2023–2024 academic year, further providing service-minded students at Cal Poly Pomona with an opportunity to serve their communities and help pay for their education.

Undergoing a new year with the program, CPP recruited 42 students into the program a notable increase from the 35 students who accrued 14,389 total service hours last year, according to data provided by College Corps.

The statewide program launched in 2022 to combat student debt and push forward career paths focusing on community service. Through the program, college students could earn up to $10,000 by working 450 service hours per academic year in one service area: K-12 education, climate action or food insecurity.

Larissa Wellman applied for the program when she started researching scholarships. Actively serving in her communities growing up, she jumped at the opportunity and entered into her desired field of climate action.

Wellman works at the BioTrek as a plant parent, where she  maintains and cares for the botanical gardens housed there.

Because of service work in areas like the BioTrek, College Corps educated 2,382 individuals and created 16 community collaborations about climate awareness over the past year.

“I’m always going for scholarships, but at the same time, I always want to be able to help other people because I know there’s always someone who’s struggling more than me,” Wellman said. “It was just the perfect melding of things I do in my life, and I can finally give back to the money I’m receiving.”

Carlos Martinez returned from the previous cohort to continue working in food insecurity at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

Martinez said he always wanted to help in food insecurity since he lived around lower income areas which had constant food drives, some of which his family needed to visit during the pandemic.

Image Courtesy of Christina Gonzales-Salgado

Martinez credits College Corps for helping him find a way to give back to his community and pay for his tuition after the pandemic. It also allowed Martinez and other members of the previous College Corps cohort to serve more than 6.4 million meals to various communities.

“The opportunity has made me realize how much food insecurity there is in our county, especially in my community, and it’s a great pleasure to be helping the people around me,” Martinez said. “I was in that position myself where I was going in for food, so it’s great to see how other people’s lives change.”

Nadtine Ngnibogha joined College Corps to work in K-12 education at the Dorris Dan Kids Campus. She said kids deserve all the support they can get, and she wanted to make a difference by being a positive role model to them.

“I joined to step out of my comfort zone, make an impact on these kid’s lives and just overall give back to my community,” Ngnibogha said.

These efforts in educating K-12 allowed College Corps to mentor 240 kids and provide 1,714 hours of tutoring to K-12 students last year.

Though College Corps helped  these students with their financial aid, they all said serving  their community is their main motivation.

Gerardo Devora, a student who recently became a state ambassador for the CPP College Corps, agreed because he received help from a food drive College Corps worked with prior to joining. Knowing how it feels to receive support from the community during a hard time, Devora felt it was important to give back to the community in return.

“The reason I got involved is basically to pay it forward,” Devora said. “I wish to be a byproduct of what it’s like to serve that community and for a person such as myself to want to invest back, knowing that ‘if they did good to me, at least I’ll attempt to help out someone else,’ and maybe then they’ll continue paying it forward.”

College Corps’ work started during fall 2023 and will continue to summer 2024.

Feature Image Courtesy of Christina Gonzales-Salgado

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