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Campus and Community

Shaping The Next Generation: Students Volunteer Thousands of Hours with College Corps

Written By Cynthia Lambert

Since September, nearly 200 Cal Poly students have volunteered more than 24,160 hours supporting local nonprofit organizations, schools and the city of San Luis Obispo through a variety of service projects. 

A group of Cal Poly students volunteering with #CaliforniansforAll College Corps pose for a photo at City Farm SLO.
Cal Poly students volunteering with the #CaliforniansForAll College Corps take a group photo with Josh Fryday at City Farm SLO.

The students are fellows in the #CaliforniansForAll College Corps program, a statewide initiative that engages students to solve problems in their communities while helping to create debt-free pathways to college.

Their service work, experiences and impact were showcased recently at City Farm SLO, a partner organization. City Farm hosts 20 Cal Poly College Corps fellows, who help host field trips for local schools, tend to the farm-learning regenerative practices and harvest produce for local food banks and schools.

“I had such a wonderful experience at the farm,” said Mary Norman, a fourth-year environmental engineering major and returning fellow. “I was able to apply what I am learning in my engineering classes. It was a great way for me to decompress during the week and spend some quality time outside doing important work with important people.”

College Corps fellow Mary Norman pets a sheep at the SLO City Farm.
Mary Norman, a fourth-year environmental engineering major, is in her second year of College Corps. She served at City Farm SLO during her first year.

Norman, who volunteered at City Farm as a first-year College Corps fellow, is serving this year with the city of San Luis Obispo’s waste management department. Other students are participating in service projects through the city of San Luis Obispo, San Luis Coastal Unified School District, San Luis Obispo Food Bank, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Ecologistics, the SLO Climate Coalition/Resilient SLO, Cal Poly Sustainability and Cal Poly Food Pantry.

Over the course of the year, students will each serve 450 hours, earning a living stipend of up to $7,000 plus a $3,000 education award upon completion of their service.

Statewide, over the next four years, it is projected that the #CaliforniansForAll College Corps program will provide more than 10,000 college students with opportunities to support and learn from community-based organizations.

Cal Poly is one of nearly 50 state institutions selected to participate in this initiative and serves as the lead institution for the Coastal California College Corps Consortium, which also includes CSU Long Beach, Cuesta College and Allan Hancock College. This year’s consortium includes 325 College Corps fellows, including 185 from Cal Poly.

California Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday, who leads California Volunteers, the state office that engages Californians in service, also visited City Farm SLO and met with fellows.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and community organizations,” Fryday said. “The impact these fellows are making on their community will leave a lasting legacy. Cal Poly College Corps is shaping the next generation of California leaders.” 

A roundtable at the SLO City Farm with the chief service officer of the program and students from Cal Poly's College Corps.
Josh Fryday, chief service officer for the governor's office, hosts a round table discussion with Cal Poly fellows. 

Cal Poly hosted a Mid-Year Leadership Workshop on Jan. 20 for fellows from Cal Poly, Cuesta College, Allan Hancock College, Fresno State and CSU Bakersfield, which featured Fryday and Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong as speakers.

“This program is so incredible on so many different levels,” said Allison Priola, program manager for the AmeriCorps programs at Cal Poly. “I can’t think of a better way for our students to apply Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy than by serving in our community.

“As a community member and parent in the school district, seeing the direct impact our fellows are having on our community and my children’s life is incredible,” she added. “I am so proud to be a part of this program and so incredibly proud of our fellows and partners.”

Learn more about the #CaliforniansForAll College Corps program at Cal Poly and statewide. You can also follow the Cal Poly program on Instagram.

Editor's Note: Allison Priola contributed to this story.