Since Day 5 of his freshman year, Siddharth Ramakrishnan volunteered for Los Angeles Community Impact, a USC student group whose mission is doing good works off-campus.
As the group’s outgoing president and a USC Marshall School of Business junior, Ramakrishnan staged Project Showcase, an event that illustrated how students helped small businesses and nonprofits become stronger institutions this past semester – all in an effort to foster good will between USC and the community.
Since the group’s founding in fall 2006, Los Angeles Community Impact has completed projects in which students logged more than 17,000 hours of community service.
As part of their real-world experience, students served as pro-bono business consultants who write marketing and financial reports and provided make-or-break recommendations on how a firm or nonprofit can remain viable or expand.
Among the group’s accolades are this year’s Students’ Choice Organization of the Year and the USC Marshall Outstanding Organization.
At Project Showcase, the group’s work was on display when teams of five students used PowerPoint to summarize their written reports, some 40 pages or more.
In all, students worked with 14 different local organizations during the semester, including the American Friends Service Committee, the Archdiocesan Youth Employment Services, Boys & Girls Clubs of East Los Angeles and the Los Angeles African-American Women’s Public Policy Institute. USC Marshall faculty served as advisers for the students.
Satisfaction ran high among students and organization officials.
“In a class, you get a grade on a midterm or final, but in this, you get passion and a real sense of responsibility. You put your clients on the line,” said Chris Mengay, a USC Marshall freshman who’s majoring in business with an emphasis on cinematic arts.
USC Marshall sophomore Brandon Maher, the team leader on a project creating a marketing plan for the Education Consortium of Central Los Angeles, added: “There’s only so much you can learn from books. Normally you get your baptism by fire when you go out in the real world after graduation, but you’re getting real-world experience through LACI before being thrown out into the world.”
Clients said they were impressed.
Gloria Driver, who lives in Los Angeles’ View Park neighborhood, wants to open a soul-food, Southern-style restaurant about 20 blocks from campus. The students gave her a business plan that included how to access city redevelopment grants.
“I loved what they did,” Driver said. “I loved the fact that they took an interest in my idea and my concept.”
Added Genevieve Ostrander, owner of Delilah Bakery, a high-end bakery in Echo Park: “It was a fabulous experience. I was asking the team if I could apply for another semester.”
The gathering turned out to be a family affair. Parents of two Los Angeles Community Impact students attended the event, including Ramakrishnan’s mother, who traveled about 350 miles from San Ramon, Calif. Her son, whose term as president ended with this academic year, spent his winter break at home working on a project while the rest of the family enjoyed the holidays.