Students in USC’s Norman Topping Student Aid Fund teamed up with the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks Thursday afternoon to educated children about Halloween safety.
Held at the Hoover Recreation Center, “Safe Halloween,” catered to local children under the age of 12, who enjoyed a haunted house, various games, a costume contest and plenty of candy at the event.
“This is actually the 15th year we have coordinated this event. We basically get together with the Hoover Recreation Center, and we plan all components that go towards Safe Halloween,” said Jeymi Choi, office manager of the Norman Topping Student Aid Fund office. “We wanted to be able to provide a safe environment for all the kids in the community. In order to do so, we set this up so they don’t have to go into the community, but can come here and enjoy everything for free.”
The Topping Scholars program sponsors primarily students from the University Park community.
“The program got started 40 years ago and was originally just for kids from the local community. Now students all over the country can apply; however, students from the local community do get special consideration in the selection process,” said Felipe Martinez, assistant director of the Topping Scholars program.
One local Topping scholar, John Mendoza, a sophomore majoring in applied and computational mathematics, was particularly passionate about the event.
“I’m originally from the local community so I definitely have the perspective as someone who, when I was little, wanted to go trick-or-treating and have fun with my family, but was limited by the safety issue,” Mendoza said. “A lot of families didn’t have the money to take their kids to other Halloween places such as Six Flags.”
The Topping Scholars were split into teams to make the event run efficiently.
“There are different booths that all the scholars can work at. We can scare kids in the haunted house, work at the creative stations building ghosts and pumpkins or watch over the kids who play in the jumpy houses,” said Erik Estrada, a freshman majoring in public relations. “It’s really well-organized in the sense that there are stations and everyone has a task at hand to do.”
Though the administrators and Topping Scholars worked on the event together, the two groups had different goals for the day. The majority of the students wanted to spend time with the children and their fellow scholars.
“I’m hoping to see some great costumes, and also interact with some of the kids” said Kaijona Wade, a freshman majoring in business administration.
Estrada agreed with Wade.
“Basically seeing the smile on the faces of some of these outreach kids who can’t really go out into their own neighborhoods, something most of us take for granted, is definitely a warm feeling that I won’t forget,” Estrada said.
The sense of community was ever-present at the event. Administrators of the program were heavily focused on the long-term benefits of the event.
“We hope that the local community will learn about college and our scholarship by coming to this event. Hopefully, they will connect this fun experience with going to college,” Choi said.
Martinez echoed the words of Choi.
“The purpose of the program is for them to interact with current USC students, but also do something fun for Halloween,” he said. “In the past, the USC students have had a really good time because they get to interact with kids. It’s really interesting to see previous scholars return with their kids and family members.”
Many scholars said they were affected by the experience.
“As a native of South Los Angeles, it’s really touching to be on the other side and give back to a community I grew up in,” Mendoza said.
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