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1.7 million reasons to celebrate good neighbors

All funds support university-community based partnerships

More than 5,500 Trojan faculty and staff raised $1.7 million in last fall’s 19th annual USC Good Neighbors Campaign (GNC).

Since 1994, USC faculty and staff have helped the communities around the university to thrive through the fundraising drive.

In all, GNC donors have contributed more than $17.7 million to the campaign, funding more than 551 partnerships around the University Park and Health Sciences campuses.

One hundred percent of the funds raised each year support university-community based partnerships that serve the residents of South Los Angeles and Boyle Heights.

“USC’s faculty and staff take tremendous pride in our community partnerships, so it’s no surprise that the Trojan Family exceeded [the] goal,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. “In strengthening our connections with our local neighborhoods, we build exceptional programs that benefit everyone, while bringing additional creativity and intellectual curiosity to our campuses.”

Donna Elliott, GNC donor, associate dean for Student Affairs at the Keck School of Medicine for USC and associate professor of pediatrics, shared insight on how the campus embraces the campaign.

“I think the engagement with the Good Neighbors programs and other community-based programs really speaks to the core of who the people are who come to USC.”

Carolina Castillo, executive director of development for Civic Engagement, added: “There are more than 500 donors who dedicate 1 percent or more of their paycheck to GNC each month. Staff and faculty from across the university give in many ways — they give financial support, their time and enthusiasm to keep our communities thriving.”

Good teamwork

Student Jai-Lynn Blackmon

Jai-Lann Blackmon raises a question. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

For the past 19 years, GNC grants have funded partnerships that benefit health, music, economic development, job creation, early childhood education, college access, theater and the arts.

One such partnership is between the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the USC Marshall School of Business and the nonprofit Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.

The partnership provides education on social and economic enterprise for youth in South Los Angeles.

For Jason Mares, a 10th-grade student at Foshay Learning Center, one of the USC Family of Schools, an entrepreneurial spirit came naturally.

“My mom always had a side business in addition to her full-time job,” he said. “She sold blankets to make a little more money, and I would help her.”

Now he’s using that business acumen and his programming skills to develop a smartphone application for amusement park visitors called “Riders Eureka.”

“This app,” he said, “has features that include best days to visit, real-time information on ride lines, foreign-language capabilities and coupons for surrounding businesses such as restaurants.”

With education, Mares learns to apply business concepts such as market research, price points, competitive advantage and return on income to his venture.

The vision of 10th-grader Edson Natareno and his partner Diana Melgar, who both play in a community symphony, is to implement music programs at local daycare centers.

“Music could significantly help young kids excel during the developmental stage of learning,” Natareno said. “If you give kids a chance to express themselves at a young age, they’ll be able to be understood, and we’ll know what they’ll need.”

Thomas Sayles, senior vice president for University Relations, said: “The USC Good Neighbor Campaign supports partnerships that enhance the cultural and educational richness of our communities, both on and off-campus. This campaign is key in building and sustaining a healthy and thriving community and city, for generations to come.”


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