College Corps Fellows from the inaugural cohort pose at the recognition event for service 450 service hours.
College Corps Fellows from the inaugural cohort pose at the recognition event for service 450 service hours. Sherwynn Umali / UCI

UCI was among 45 statewide campuses selected for the inaugural #CaliforniansForAll College Corps program last year. Led by California Volunteers and the California Office of the Governor, the College Corps program provides more than 10,000 college students across the state opportunities to support and learn from community-based organizations working in three priority areas: K-12 education, climate action and food insecurity. UCI chose to focus on two of them: climate action and food insecurity.

UCI’s College Corps featured an inaugural cohort of 70. Led by Sherwynn Umail, the Student Affairs deputy chief of staff, and staff team Darlene Esparza, Anella Aquino and Marie Paulo, the student fellows participated in cohort building events. Events included socials, service projects and study sessions, where they learned, reflected and, in some instances, relaxed from the everyday life of being a UCI student. Additionally, UCI College Corps fellows attend a day-long leadership workshop with fellows from 10 other participating College Corps campuses.

Fourth-year biological sciences major Hassan Shaikh heard about College Corps through the Summer Bridge program.

“I immigrated from Pakistan eight years ago, and I had that drive in me to give back and to serve,” he says. “And was also looking for a part time job while also making an impact on my community – College Corps made the perfect opportunity.”

Shaikh focused on food insecurity and worked with Bracken’s Kitchen in Garden Grove, where he helped cook and pack meals for delivery to shelters. He also worked at the Mercy Housing homeless shelter in Costa Mesa, where he provided meals to underserved people.

Fellows helped UCI Basic Needs prepare 150 boxes with fresh food and basic needs supplies.
Fellows helped UCI Basic Needs prepare 150 boxes with fresh food and basic needs supplies for students to pick-up while the UCI Basic Needs Center was closed for Spring Break. UCI

“My host site served wholesome, nutritious meals in a dignified manner to those with food insecurity,” Shaikh says.  “Engaging with people from different backgrounds and listening to their stories had an impact on me. Even at Mercy’s House, realizing those people have dreams and aspirations and resilience despite their challenging situations – it makes you appreciate life and appreciate the little things.”

Fourth year anthropology major Matthew Margrave focused on climate action. His site was the Newport Beach Bay Conservancy, where he worked with a 5th grade camp in the fall and worked year-round cultivating native plants to replant them. He put in between 10-20 hours a week based on schoolwork load and participated in the summer activities like research.

“I also participated in community days to host the public and get them involved and show them biodiversity aspect,” says Margrave. “Working in the group at the bay showed me I could be a leader and helped me have the courage to apply to become a resident assistant and be a leader at school. That’s in part due to College Corps.”

Because College Corps is a one-year program, Margrave re-applied this year applied and was accepted. He will continue with the Newport Beach Bay Conservancy and have a more active role with the fellows in the new cohort.

A total of 52 of 70 students in cohort 1 completed the 450 hours. A congratulatory event for the 52 fellows who completed the 450 hours took place on Sept. 27.

“We did a fun thing for our College Corps fellows who completed 450 service hours (the maximum required—not all of them completed the hours),” says Umali. “Dean of Students Rameen Talesh wrote a song to the students and named all 52 of them!”

In cohort 2, there are 91 slots for fellows with a few slots still available. A launch party for the second UCI cohort takes place Oct. 6.

If you want to learn more about supporting this or other activities at UCI, please visit the Brilliant Future website at Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more.