On any given day, children are conducting science and engineering experiments in South and East Los Angeles elementary schools. Meanwhile, high school students are learning more about their communities during health-related discussions on land use.
These activities are made possible through programs funded by the USC Good Neighbors Campaign (GNC), the annual employee-giving initiative organized by Civic Engagement that directs one-time donations and monthly payroll deductions toward community programs. To date, GNC has raised more than $16 million.
“This year, we have increased our goal to $1.7 million,” said Carolina Castillo, executive director of development for USC Civic Engagement, who leads the GNC campaign.
“We also aim to increase participation from 5,565 to 6,000 employees,” she added.
In 2012, GNC donations funded such projects as Mission Science, a pre-college science, technology, engineering and mathematics program at six schools near the University Park and Health Sciences campuses.
Mission Science customizes curricula for fourth- and fifth-graders with an interest in the sciences. With help from USC Viterbi School of Engineering mentors, the students start with remedial experiments and move up to more advanced projects — designing a car, building a bridge or launching a rocket, for example.
“It’s quite enlightening when kids develop their curiosity and ask questions,” said Darin Gray, Mission Science program director. “And when they build their own cars or robots and know that they are doing the work of engineers and scientists, they learn that this is a field that they could pursue.”
Elsewhere, local youth work with USC fine arts students and professional artists to create illustrations, paintings and other images that serve as the basis for public art designs in their communities.
“Our Neighborhood: Youth Artists as Civic Leaders” enlists young people between the ages of 15 and 25 to develop an artistic response to key issues in their neighborhoods, such as access to health services and related land use.
“Youth are an untapped resource in solving community problems in Los Angeles,” said Karen Mack, founder and executive director of LA Commons, a leading nonprofit that focuses on community-based art projects that strengthens LA’s civic and cultural vibrancy.
“The USC Good Neighbors Campaign is unlike any other employee-giving program in the country,” said Craig Keys, associate senior vice president of USC Civic Engagement. “We are particularly proud of the fact that 100 percent of contributions go toward program support, which demonstrates our collective commitment to the community.”
The GNC campaign runs through Oct. 31, but donations can be made at any time during the year. Alumni, students and the general public may also participate.