Eduardo Mollinedo-Piñón’s relationship with his professors at USC began before he ever set foot on campus. When hundreds of USC faculty and staff members donated part of their salaries to support programs that helped him pursue his passion for music.
Mollinedo-Piñón, who graduated from USC with a B.A. in comparative literature in 2015, said that in middle school, he had few opportunities to explore the things he was passionate about. However, that changed after he transferred to the Foshay Learning Center just a few blocks away from USC. There, he became involved with programs such as the Neighborhood Academic Initiative, a college preparation program, as well as the USC Thornton School of Music Outreach Program.
“I received a lot of significant support that is catered more to students like me who grew up in very low-income families,” Mollinedo-Piñón said.
These initiatives, which funded his first musical instrument and set Mollinedo-Piñón on the path to a full music scholarship at USC, were supported by the USC Good Neighbors Campaign, which allows USC faculty and staff to collaborate with local nonprofit organizations on projects in the neighborhoods surrounding the University Park and Health Sciences campuses. Since 1994, the Good Neighbors Campaign has awarded more than $20 million to benefit community programs and given over 600 grants to support community organizations.
On Sept. 29, President C.L. Max Nikias welcomed hundreds of faculty and staff members who donated at least 1 percent of their salaries to the Good Neighbors Campaign to his home. Many of the programs funded by the campaign are geared toward education and are focused on enhancing the experience for students from elementary to high school through subjects ranging from the sciences to the arts and humanities.
Good Neighbors Campaign Director Carolina Castillo said that the programs funded by the organization gives students experiences that local schools often can’t afford due to a lack of resources. For example, Castillo brought up the fourth and fifth grade science programs that the campaign is helping fund as an example of how USC students can help younger kids explore their interest in science.
“We hear stories of kids that seem to have too much energy in the classroom — they are smart but disruptive,” Castillo said. “But as soon as they funnel their interest in a way that is productive, they actually can be very successful and use that energy in productive ways. The science program is one of those examples where students engage in something that is of interest to them and they are able to then really nourish that curiosity that children have.”
Castillo highlighted the importance of the opportunities and the support system the funded programs can give members of the community who may be struggling, whether through education or other services.
“Everyone has had some defining moment in their lives that helped to put them on the path to where they are now,” Castillo said. “We need to say how can we do that for others and how can we make sure others have that same opportunity.”
Since graduating from high school, Mollinedo-Piñón has performed at the Hollywood Bowl and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, presented his research at an NYU International Conference while still a junior in college and now works for the Long Beach Opera. He credits the programs funded by the Good Neighbors Campaign for helping him get to where he is today.
“The reason that I was successful in not just going to college but completing college was in part because of these programs,” Mollinedo-Piñón said. “No institution has had a greater positive impact on me than USC, and it was based on the generosity of students, faculty and staff. It is really important for all USC students to see how important these programs are.”
Students, faculty and staff can participate in the upcoming Friends and Neighbors Day on Oct. 15, which aims to give back to the local community through a Saturday of service.