USC celebrated the impact of its Good Neighbors Campaign — through which university faculty and staff make payroll donations to support the neighboring communities — with Thursday’s annual dinner honoring those who contribute 1% of their salary to the program.
Ariel Caballero, the night’s keynote speaker, told the donors in attendance how the Good Neighbors Campaign-funded “After ‘Cool” program helped transform his life. Caballero credits that program — organized by the 24th Street Theatre, located several blocks from the USC University Park Campus — with giving him the confidence he needed for college.
“I remember when I started with the program: I was really shy and I really struggled with making friends,” he said. “I started forming special bonds with my mentors, who encouraged me to take risks and advised me that that I could do whatever I set my mind to.
“This helped me out a lot, and I really noticed a change in my self-confidence.”
The program had such an impact on Caballero that he became a mentor himself, joining the program’s Teen Leadership Academy; it was his way of giving back and also paying it forward.
“My kids deserve support, much like I did when I was in their place,” he said.
President Folt praises the Good Neighbors Campaign
USC President Carol L. Folt described how the Good Neighbors Campaign builds a special bond between university employees and the families living in the neighborhoods surrounding the University Park and Health Sciences campuses.
Folt, attending her first Good Neighbors Campaign celebration since becoming USC president earlier this year, was inspired by those in attendance and pledged to be a 1% donor herself. The campaign, which takes place every fall, is now underway, with awards granted in the spring.
Now entering its 25th year, the Good Neighbors Campaign has generated more than $25 million and awarded over 800 grants to local community programs. This year, the campaign is funding more than 50 education, arts, family and safety programs that support the communities surrounding the University Park and Health Sciences campuses.
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