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Record-setting Good Neighbors Campaign

by Eddie North-Hager and Allison Engel
Record-Setting Good Neighbors Campaign
Neighborhood children learn about pedestrian safety at the USC Family of Schools Kid Watch picnic. Kid Watch is funded by the Good Neighbors Campaign.

The 2009 USC Good Neighbors Campaign, launched in October in tough recessionary times, exceeded its goal with a record $1.2 million given by USC faculty and staff.

This was the last campaign under the tenure of USC President Steven B. Sample and may stand out as his proudest fund-raising achievement among many in his 19 years.

“This overwhelming generosity is a tangible measure of how much USC’s faculty and staff have embraced their neighborhoods,” Sample said. “They want to make a difference. And they are confident that this partnership will continue to strengthen both USC and its neighbors for decades to come.”

Thomas S. Sayles, USC vice president of government and community relations, who came to USC last year, helmed the campaign for the first time.

“This year’s record-breaking campaign is a fitting tribute to President Sample,” Sayles said. “The generosity of the Trojan Family is unprecedented, and during these tough economic times, this effort speaks volumes about USC’s commitment to improving the lives of our neighbors.”

The 2009 total puts the amount donated over the Good Neighbors Campaign’s 15-year history to more than $11 million, all of which has gone to support more than 365 community organizations partnering with USC to put children on the pathway to college, make streets safer for families and provide activities and education to improve the health of those in the neighborhoods around USC’s campuses.

Carolina Castillo, executive director of planning and development for USC government and community relations, said that the newest members of the Trojan Family, USC University Hospital and USC Norris Cancer Hospital, together ranked the highest in terms of dollars raised by any administrative unit ($55,731). The Keck School of Medicine of USC had the highest dollar total of an academic unit with $124,344.

One academic unit – the USC Rossier School of Education – had 100 percent participation. Six administrative units had perfect participation – KUSC, Office of the Treasurer, Office of the Senior Vice President, Administration, the Health Sciences Libraries, USCard Services and the USC Fisher Museum.

There was an increase of 454 employees contributing to the campaign this year. However, with 2,220 additional employees coming into the pool of potential donors last year – thanks to USC’s purchase of the two hospitals – the percentage of university-wide participation declined slightly from the prior year, from 42 percent overall participation to 39 percent.

There were 432 members in the President’s Leadership Circle, which are those who pledged at least 1 percent of their salary, down from 490 in 2008. That decline, Castillo said, was probably due to the economic environment.

“The campaign reached an important milestone as it marked its 15-year anniversary of ‘helping children live their dreams,’ ”Castillo said. “You can’t put a price on teaching a child to read, to solve a math problem or the pride parents feel as their child graduates from college. That’s what it means to be a good neighbor.”

The campaign began with a long-term challenge Sample issued after a painful time in Los Angeles history. Believing that the university was in a unique position to reach out and help with the healing process after riots roiled the city, Sample asked the staff and faculty to join him in taking responsibility for improving the neighborhoods surrounding the University Park and Health Sciences campuses.

He laid out a series of community initiatives that started with this simple and profound mandate: “Make sure that every child who lives in the neighborhoods surrounding our two campuses is known personally by his or her name by someone at USC, and make sure that each child has the educational and cultural opportunities he or she needs to do well in school and to go on to college.”

Many of the programs supported by the Good Neighbors Campaign help children realize their potential by providing tutoring, mentorship and classroom instruction. Many students have not only gone on to graduate from high school, but they continue with advanced degrees. Students who were helped by programs supported by Good Neighbors now are returning to their community as volunteers.

“I have reviewed the practices of several universities that actively participate in their surrounding communities,” Sayles said. “No one takes on such a monumental task every year to benefit their neighborhoods.”

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