Good Neighbors to aim for $1.4 million

University leadership said it wants to expand the scope of USC’s biggest charity fundraising campaign, “The Good Neighbors Campaign,” after the last academic year was successful, despite the economic downturn.

Donation · The Good Neighbors Campaign supports many community services, including the Neighborhood Academic Initiative. - Kastalia Medrano | Daily Trojan

Leadership announced the upcoming year’s goal Wednesday afternoon at Alumni Park. It aims to raise $1.4 million this year, after generating $1.2 million from donations last year from USC faculty and staff.

Senior Vice President of University Relations Tom Sayles said he is glad the program has been successful even in tough economic times.

“The Trojan family has been so generous, even during recessions we’re able to increase our donations from the previous years,” Sayles said.

Since 1994, more than $12.5 million has been raised for the campaign. President C. L. Max Nikias said the university wants more faculty and staff to be involved with the campaign this year.

“Last year, 35 percent of the faculty and staff contributed to the campaign so just imagine what we could do if 60 percent or 75 percent contribute this year,” Nikias said.

Kim Alexander, senior executive director of development for University Relations, said the university has worked to streamline the process for faculty and staff to donate money online.

“Online donations are going to be much easier this year,” Alexander said. “We’re also increasing our communiqué to faculty and staff to encourage them to donate more.”

The event also showcased the achievements of some of the organizations such as the Neighborhood Academic Initiative that benefit most from the campaign.

The NAI, which provides support to local students through their secondary school education, was also featured at the event. The NAI prepares its students for college with tutoring sessions every Saturday and guarantees a full financial aid package to those who complete the program and are admitted into USC.

NAI Program Director Kim Thomas-Barrios said the money raised last year would allow the group to expand the scope of its program.

“Ninety-nine percent of the kids enrolled in our program go to college and of those, 35 percent get into USC,” Barrios said. “Because of the Good Neighbors Campaign, we are going to be able to add students from the sixth grade onwards, as opposed to from the seventh grade, as in previous years.”

Guadalupe Cardona, a program graduate and a freshman majoring in psychology, said she was grateful for NAI.

“The program was six years of hard work,” Cardona said. “The community really needs help and I’m very proud to be a USC student because of such initiatives.”

Mentors for the program are USC students, many of whom are graduates of the program. Cardona said she plans to be involved now that she is a USC student.

Skull and Mortar conducts an annual health fair — supported by the campaign — where it provides free screenings for a variety of medical conditions and flu shots.

Angela Lee, the program’s student coordinator and a third year pharmacy student, said nearly 1,000 community members attended the event last year and they plan on getting more to attend this year.

“This drive is very useful for the community, as well as for the students [who run it], as it provides free health services to people while giving the students a chance to get some practical experience,” Lee said.

Lee said the campaign provides a majority of the medical supplies and additional necessities needed to hold the fair.

The campaign has given 459 grants that total $11 million to community organizations affiliated with the university and located near either University Park Campus or Health Sciences Campus. A 20-member committee of faculty and staff is responsible for examining grant requests.