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Ventura County Students Helping Region's Underserved Populations

(Photo Courtesy Tim Hagel)
AmeriCorps Fellow Emma Janzen helping a student read as part of her service through the Safe Passage Foundation

It’s a way to help local communities while also helping students to pay for college.

California Lutheran University students are some of the first in the country taking part in a unique Americorp Program to help underserved populations in Ventura County. 

It’s part of a first-in-the nation program.

Students from Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks are serving low-income and immigrant populations throughout Ventura County as the University’s first Americorps Civic Action fellows.

Cynthia Duarte, director of the Americorp Fellows Program at Cal Lutheran, says that the program is unique as usually it's undertaken by students before or after their college courses and not college-based, in this way. 

"This is a program that's embedded within the student's curriculum. They spend about 25 hours a week in their community internship," says Duarte. 

The students will receive up to $7,900 in funding from the state and federal governments.

But student Katia Ayala, who is is serving with the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing project in Oxnard, says that it’s more about the rewards she’s experiencing in helping the community. 

"Since everything is on-line this year and part of last year, it's been more inclusive than I ever could have imagined," says Ayala. 

She says that she's working with high school students, and giving them a space to ask questions. 

"What we are really trying to do is encourage them to go beyond the stereotypes. For many indiginous people, the stereotype is that they are only field-workers. 

"We are trying to show them, 'no,' you can be a university student, you can be a law-maker. You don't have to confine to that stereotype." 

Ayala choked up with tears as she explained what the program means to her. 

"For me personally it's encouraging to see people who look like me and come from my community, because it shows that we are people too and can also aspire to go beyond what's expected of us. 

"It shows that the help that I'm doing and the help that other people within those organizations are doing, isn't in vain and is actually providing what we are seeking to provide." 

Cal Lutheran is the parent of KCLU.

Caroline won an LA Press Club Award in 2021 for Use Of Sound. However, she started her broadcasting career in the UK, working on both radio and television for the BBC, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism. She moved to Los Angeles in 2013 and is both an American and British citizen. Caroline lives in Agoura Hills with her daughter, and joined the KCLU team in 2020.
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