USC has always implored students to participate in community outreach, whether through their fraternities or sororities, the Joint Educational Project or any number of other options. Helping the local community is emphasized during admission tours, and it is reinforced repeatedly during a student’s time at USC.
But the students aren’t the only ones helping to improve the neighborhood. The university’s active role in the community has helped to advance the area as well.
The USC Family of Schools partnership, started by former President Steven B. Sample in 1994, is the university’s flagship philanthropy organization, designed to provide resources to local public schools.
The partnership originally started with five schools, but it has now expanded to 15 schools and more than 17,000 children. USC students and faculty alike dedicate their time to teach and encourage students in order to help them achieve the main goal of the organization — attending college.
The partnership is one of many that USC has established to improve the University Park area. President C. L. Max Nikias recently visited 10 of the 15 schools in the program to re-evaluate their needs and make sure the university’s resources were being used in the most effective way.
Also of interest to Nikias is the redevelopment of the University Village complex, which will help create jobs for local residents and increase the university’s role as an economic engine that dominates the local economy.
USC’s role in the community has been publicized and marketed ad nauseam. But this does not downplay the tangible impact that the university has had in the surrounding neighborhoods.
The addition of the Contemporary Services Corporation security officers has improved safety for students and local residents. USC has emphasized the role of education and helped the local public schools in a time of crisis, when even a pencil can’t be taken for granted.
In a time when many schools are shutting down their arts and music programs, USC has helped support the programs in the schools here via student organizations.
By allowing the younger students to access university resources, they have in some ways created a second school for them. And by stressing the importance of education, many local students no longer view college as a long shot. They view it as a necessity.
The economic impact of the university has been equally profound. USC has created 27,000 jobs on campus and thousands more non-university jobs because of the establishment of local businesses designed to serve students. The university also looks out for local businesses’ interests through the Local Vendor Program, which gives these businesses a chance to be a part of campus projects.
Although USC has done a lot to improve the community for the residents of the area, it can still do more to strengthen the students’ experience. The renovated University Village will help make students feel more involved with the local area as well as to accept and embrace it as opposed to looking down on it.
Similar to Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, Calif., the new University Village will function as a communal gathering place for students. Many students complain about the area immediately outside campus, often calling it rundown. The new University Village will enhance L.A. aesthetically and economically, making the area a selling point and not a drawback.
The economic revenue and overall impact of USC is unrivaled to anything else in the Downtown Los Angeles area. University officials are aware of their relationship to the community and understand its importance, cementing community outreach as a top priority.
By ingraining this philosophy within its students, the university ensures that many different groups affiliated with USC, ranging from the president to the students, do their part to help the community.
The school could have sat back and let the community take shape and adjust accordingly. The proactive stance that university officials have taken, gaining steam with Sample in 1994, created an example that every person affiliated with the university is urged to follow.
Service and outreach are two essential values which USC has highlighted. Students don’t need to look far for an excellent example.
Cyrus Behzadi is a freshman majoring in communication.