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Vol 56 No. 12 | Oct. 2004
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Carmelitos Development
Carmelitos Development a Win-Win For Students, Residents

By Shayne Schroeder

Sometimes, it's difficult to get that hands-on experience you need to get the job you eventually would like to have. CSULB's Community Service Learning Center provides numerous opportunities for students to get out into the community and assist others, while also giving them the opportunity to get that much-needed experience.

Service-learning is a way for students to learn and understand concepts and theories being taught in a class through relevant service to the community, while also addressing real and significant community needs. It also helps students gain a greater sense of civic responsibility and hopefully develop a lifelong “ethic” of service and community engagement.

One specific venue for students is the Carmelitos Housing Development, located in North Long Beach. A former U.S. Army property, Carmelitos became a housing development under the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles in the 1960s. Today, CSULB students spend anywhere from two to six hours a week at Carmelitos, providing a variety of services to residents.

This assistance is available, in great part, because of The Greater Long Beach/South Bay Community Partnership, with Cal State Long Beach serving as the lead agency. The partnership was awarded a three-year $399,979 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Outreach Partnership Centers (COPC) grant specifically to fund the Carmelitos Initiative, which is aimed at addressing the needs of the residents of the development.

Julio Martinez, an employment services coordinator at the site, acknowledged the benefits of and for CSULB students on a daily basis. Anna Graizbord, a women's studies major at CSULB, assisted in his office.

“Among many of the things Anna did was conduct pre-employment workshops for the residents,” said Martinez, who is also a CSULB graduate, having received a bachelor's degree is psychology in 2002. “We are always trying to find people jobs and they are constantly calling us.”

Graizbord chose to serve at Carmelitos because she felt it afforded her the best opportunity to participate in areas she was most interested in.

“The way Carmelitos was presented,” said Graizbord, “it seemed like I could be involved in a number of different things and I really had an interest in helping people get placed (into jobs).” To that end, among other things, Graizbold assisted residents in writing resumes and by giving seminars concerning a wide variety of topics that could help residents in the job interview process. “Sometimes it's only one or two people,” she said, “but if they need the help we provide it.”

Carmelitos is also about children. Many children need after-school care, which includes academic assistance and other types of enrichment activities, much of which are provided by CSULB students. One of those students is Laura Cabera, a liberal studies major, who plans on becoming a teacher and help the children in her community.

“Working with the Carmelitos children has prepared me by being more aware of after school homework and what the children are learning in class,” said Cabera. “Working at Carmelitos, I have helped all sorts of children ranging from second through seventh graders. It has been an eye opener to me. There is a lot of happiness and laughter here and the children make it worth while.

“The children look happy when they speak to me,” added Cabera, who feels she makes a real difference. “They also know that we can both work on homework and talk about things that pertain to their future or present goals.”

One of just 10 similar grants to be awarded last nationally this past year, the Carmelitos Initiative is administered by CSULB's Community Service Learning Center, which works with other members of its consortium, primarily CSU Dominguez Hills, Long Beach City College, the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles, Long Beach BLAST (Better Learning After School Today) and Goodwill Industries of Long Beach and South Bay.

“This is a perfect example of what the service learning program is all about,” said CSULB President Robert C. Maxson. “We are really out there helping individuals who need assistance. Our students get real hands-on experience and the residents of Carmelitos get assistance that will hopefully help them better their lives.”

Pat Rozee, director of CSULB's Community Service Learning Center, and community partnerships coordinator Carina Sass, oversee the grant. During Rozee's recent sabbatical, Raul Reis served as interim director and oversaw the initial implementation of the initiative.

“It is a multi-faceted project and we are attending a diversity of needs - some being the elderly, the young, at-risk kids, and after-school programs,” said Reis. “There are many different groups in this housing development that will be assisted through this consortium.”

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