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Grant Expands Community Outreach
With a recently awarded HUD grant, the university will expand the area’s community center and offer free services such as civics classes, leadership training and English lessons.

December 1, 2005
By Mimi Ko Cruz

A good neighbor to residents of a low-income area in central Fullerton is what this university aims to become, said Donald S. Castro, special assistant to President Milton A. Gordon.

With a recently awarded $599,525 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant, the university will expand, to twice its current size, the area’s community center and offer free services such as civics classes, leadership training and English lessons.

The three-year project will involve the Fullerton Collaborative, a coalition of partners — Cal State Fullerton, Fullerton College, city of Fullerton, Fullerton School District, St. Jude Medical Center and Valencia Task Force. Students and volunteers will make up the majority of the staff providing services, and Castro will serve as project director.

The expanded center and additional services are targeted to those residents who live in the Richman Park neighborhood, an area bordered by Harbor Boulevard, the 91 Freeway and Commonwealth and Woods avenues. According to the 2000 Census, 6,447 people live there and the average median income is $36,645.

Many of the adult residents are poor, have little or no formal education, few job skills and speak little or no English, Castro said.

“The fundamental problem faced by residents of the central Fullerton area is that there is very limited space for the provision of services to meet the needs of the community,” he said. “Many residents lack automobiles and, therefore, have difficulty in being able to go to off-site providers.”

That’s why it’s important to provide services in the neighborhood, one of the most in need in Orange County, Castro added.

As part of the project, CSUF will purchase two 12-foot-by-60-foot modular units that will be attached to the existing Valencia Community Center in Richman Park.

“The facility expansion will provide dedicated rooms for computer instruction, teenage use, storage space for toys and other materials used for the preschool and after-school programs, one-on-one tutoring and more,” Castro said.

The expansion and a remodel of the existing building are expected to be complete by fall 2006.

Then, computer labs will open to Richman Park area parents, and CSUF and Fullerton College students will conduct technology workshops in Spanish and English to teach how to use the Internet to obtain college and university eligibility, admissions and financial aid information.

‘The project demonstrates Cal State Fullerton’s commitment to serving its community and being a good neighbor.’

Other services planned include:
The formation of a parent group called Padres Promotores de la Educacion (Parent Advocates for Education). Members will be parents of junior high and high school students who will be trained to communicate information about the school system, requirements for graduation and retention, and higher education options to their peers through home visits, informal neighborhood presentations and church or block association meetings.

A CreditSmart program, which will be geared at helping potential homeowners learn to manage their money, including how to establish and maintain credit and plan for the future.

Vocational and career training workshops that will help residents develop programs related to safe neighborhoods, such as a junior cadet-type program. The workshops also will help residents learn about landscape design by participating in the creation and maintenance of a community garden; how to design publicity campaigns and promote a positive community image; and how to set up business systems and develop technology skills. English-as-a-second-language classes also will be offered.

Civic education classes devoted to what it means to be an American citizen will be conducted. The curriculum will include an overview of American history, customs and culture, as well as prepare interested pupils on what it takes to become a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

At the same time Cal State Fullerton will be adding to and remodeling the Valencia Community Center, St. Jude Medical Center will build a 5,000-square-foot clinic next to it and provide staff to offer medical and social services, such as prenatal, pediatric and urgent care, chronic disease management, health education and mental health counseling. The clinic will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and services will be free.

The clinic will serve as a venue for the university’s obesity program and other wellness programs, which are sponsored by the departments of nursing and kinesiology, Castro added.

The main purpose of the project, he said, is to empower Richman Park’s residents.

“This is a community in need, a community that is not receiving the kinds of services it needs, and this project will help citizens in central Fullerton become more self-sufficient, financially sound, English proficient, technologically adept and develop skills in a variety of areas and take advantage of educational opportunities,” he said. “The project demonstrates Cal State Fullerton’s commitment to serving its community and being a good neighbor.”

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Donald Castro
Donald S. Castro

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