Margie Yu
Public Affairs Spec.
(323) 343-3047


of Events

Cal State L.A. Student Recognized for Work in
Community Service Learning

Los Angeles, CA -- California State University has recently honored Cal State L.A.'s undergraduate Jesus Perez (a resident of South Central/Los Angeles) as one of 21 students throughout the state with the STARS (Students That Are Recognized for Service) award. The award acknowledges Perez' outstanding efforts in service learning projects and his ongoing commitment to serve the community.

Jesus Perez, who will be conferred with a bachelor's degree in rehabilitation services during Cal State L.A.'s commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 9, has been legally blind since his late teens in Mexico, where he married and started a family. He came with his family to the United States in the late 1970s and made a living as a street vendor. His family was stricken with one seemingly insurmountable tragedy after another--one child born with spina bifida, and the death of one child by accidental drowning. Despite this, Perez persevered, discovering the Braille Institute (even though in those days there was only one tutor who spoke Spanish) and trying to learn Braille in English--a language he could not speak. He enrolled in ESL classes at Los Angeles City College, eventually earned his A.A. degree there and transferred to Cal State L.A. A legal permanent resident, he became a United States citizen in 1996--the year following his son's death.

At Cal State L.A. he was aided by the Office of Students with Disabilities, which encouraged him to participate in the Service Learning program through EPIC (Educational Participation in Communities), so that he could get course credit for the amount of hours he was putting in at the Braille Institute--"giving back to his community while supporting his academic development." Using his bilingual skill as a tutor, Perez also currently teaches new Braille students how to read and write in Braille and facilitates an independent living skill class at the Braille Institute.

STARS (Students That Are Recognized for Service) Award
Students from 20 different CSU campuses were selected for the STARS award for their innovative efforts that improved the lives of individuals, or the community-at-large in at least one of the following areas: social justice, social, economic, health, public safety, or environmental issues during the last year. The CSU Office of the Chancellor and the systemwide Office of Service Learning created this award last year.

"The STARS award recipients are student leaders at the California State University and exemplify our students' dedication to community service," said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed. "They have raised awareness on issues facing the elderly and disabled, promoted sustainable agriculture, tutored children, and provided over 10,000 hours of community service within the past year." More than 135,000 CSU students systemwide perform a total of 33.6 million hours of community service annually. That would be a minimum wage value of approximately $193.2 million.

Community service-learning promotes student learning through active participation in community service experiences that are directly related to course content. In September 1997, the CSU developed a Community Service-Learning Strategic Plan. Now, all 23 campuses facilitate service learning, and the CSU systemwide service-learning department, which was created three years ago, supports their programs.

The strategic plan provides direction for each campus to maximize the potential of service learning. The two key objectives of the five-year plan (1997-2002) are to engage students at each CSU campus in at least one service-learning experience prior to graduation, and to offer an ongoing variety of service-learning experiences so that all students will have those opportunities. Last year, Governor Gray Davis included $2.2 million in the CSU 2000-2001 budget to support the expansion of service learning at CSU campuses.


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