USC’s 17th annual Good Neighbors Campaign kicked off Oct. 1 with a new monetary goal — $1.3 million.
With the primary goal of giving back to the Los Angeles community and creating an educationally enriched environment for adults and children, the monthlong campaign — which receives donations from staff and faculty — serves to provide grant funding to programs located within the community surrounding the university.
“With the USC tradition of civic engagement, part of our mission is solving societal needs: [We need] an academic institution to provide academic opportunities,” Campaign Director Carolina Castillo said. “Giving is about settling problems, the civic engagement of faculty and staff and enhancing the communities and lives of residents of Los Angeles. We have a long tradition of that at this school, and the tradition of giving is much the same.”
Last year, the Good Neighbors Campaign set out to raise $1.2 million from staff and faculty. The new goal of $1.3 million was set based on the amount of money received in 2009, Castillo said, and the trends of increasing participation and involvement that campaign leaders saw over time.
This year, the campaign has seen almost 140 faculty and staff members volunteer as campaign leaders to raise awareness and money for the project. Castillo said she believes that such increased participation will bring in more funds; she hopes to reach at least 15,000 university employees.
“Contributions are critical, and the goal is increasing because needs are increasing,” Castillo said. “I think that the goal is achievable, and USC faculty and staff understand the impact that their contributions are making in the community and that the need continues to grow every year. Given that they know that this is the impact they are having, we can meet that goal.”
In previous years, money generated from the campaign was distributed among many organizations, each of which sponsored programs to benefit the community around them. Last year, grants were given to 43 organizations out of 60 that applied. This year, coordinators hope to increase that number, Castillo said.
Last year, funding went to organizations such as the Thornton School of Music and the Fisher Museum of Art to create programs for kids in the community.
“These kids can say things through art that they can’t say through words,” said Selma Holo, the director of the gallery and a member working in conjunction with the Good Neighbors Campaign-sponsored Art in the Village Program, to which $25,991 was given.
The program was designed to allow children to come to the Fisher Museum and take interest in interactive art workshops.
“We see students here in a way that we’ve never seen before, and we have kids that are really members of Fisher, and the kids feel like they belong. It’s a sustainable relationship, and we know they’ll come back in the future even when these programs are over,” Holo said.
Similar funds were provided to the Thornton School of Music, which used $33,880 on the USC Thornton Student Outreach Program, which provided music education to students from grades K-12.
“It’s a strong partnership between the community and Thornton,” said Thornton faculty member Susan Helfter. “These programs are beneficial to both our students and the students outside the USC gates, and the interaction gives music a different dimension. It’s clear that these programs are really making a difference to these kids.”