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Silas H. Abrego stands before the Valencia Community Center at Richman Park. Photo by Mimi Ko Cruz

Expanding Outreach

New Community Center Offers Free Services to Low-Income Neighborhood

October 28, 2008

By Mimi Ko Cruz

Named a Hispanic-Serving Institution in 2004 by the U.S. Department of Education, Cal State Fullerton is charged with providing services to help retain and graduate underrepresented students.

Because of its designation, the university was awarded a five-year $2.3 million Title V grant in 2005. The funds have helped create about a dozen programs that have “significantly impacted the way we provide retention services,” said Silas H. Abrego, associate vice president for student affairs.

Those programs include parent orientation sessions offered in Spanish and student leadership and tutoring programs.

Though the funds are earmarked for enhancing programs for Latinos, who make up 28 percent of the student population, all CSUF students benefit regardless of their ethnicity, Abrego said.

A related project established by the late Donald Castro, special assistant to President Milton A. Gordon, involves the Fullerton Collaborative, a coalition of partners — Cal State Fullerton, Fullerton College, the city of Fullerton, Fullerton School District, St. Jude Medical Center and Valencia Task Force. The project, funded through a $599,525 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant, includes the expansion of the Valencia Community Center and the creation of free services such as civics classes, English lessons and medical care in a low-income area of central Fullerton.

The Valencia Community Center at Richman Park, adjacent to Richman Elementary School, 711 S. Highland Ave., is set to open with a Nov. 4 reception. The public is welcome to attend the 4-6 p.m. event, at which Gordon, Abrego and Fullerton Mayor Sharon Quirk will speak.

Castro was the project’s director until his death in June 2007. He garnered the grant and had said that it was helping provide services for families of the Richman Park neighborhood, an area bordered by Harbor Boulevard, the 91 Freeway and Commonwealth and Woods avenues.

The center expansion will provide dedicated rooms for computer instruction, teenage use, storage space for toys and other materials used for preschool and after-school programs, tutoring services, parenting and health classes, money management and career training workshops, and civics education classes.

“We’re really excited about the community center expansion and seeing Don Castro’s vision come to fruition,” Abrego said. “We expect the community will benefit greatly and we’re very grateful for Don’s vision and ability to secure the funding that made this possible.”

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