By Betty Tran, APIASF Scholar
Engaging in community service work in USC’s local community proved to me that USC truly belongs to South Central Los Angeles. Although USC has a well-resourced private school environment, our neighbors have many gaps to fill in order to provide their children with a quality education. To the local community, USC is known as the University of Service to the Community, and has established a range of educational programs such as the Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI), Joint Educational Project (JEP), and USC Readers to engage academically with the local students. These programs provide a unique opportunity for USC students to strengthen the intellectual interests of the local youth as well as their own, and offer high-quality academic support that these students may not be able to seek elsewhere. The University Park neighborhood, north of USC’s campus, has many working class immigrant families, often times with limited educational backgrounds and English abilities. I fell in love with the students I engaged with through working with children through USC’s Joint Educational Program. I realized that the students gave me a place in their community, and in turn I earned a sense of belonging to this community. In exchange, I shared my time and knowledge with them, and we created such beautiful interdependent relationships, which are at the root of thriving communities. I really hope each college student can find his or her local community to be just as rich with hope, culture, opportunity, friendships, and service as I have, by reaching my hand out to those around me.