The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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At-risk youths aided by $585,000 grant

A $585,000 three-year grant was awarded to the Community Service Learning Program and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at CSUN to fund a gang prevention program.

Mentoring to Overcome Struggles and Inspire Courage, which serves disadvantaged youths who are involved in gangs throughout the San Fernando Valley, was awarded the grant to fund services that include counseling and tutoring, said Maureen Rubin, director of CSL at the new Center for Innovative and Engaged Learning Opportunities at CSUN.

Learn and Serve America funded nine grants and CSUN was the only university in California to receive an individual grant out of 206 applicants, she said.

This is the second time Learn and Serve America has awarded MOSAIC a grant. When the program first started in 2003, it received $373,000.

“I’m so excited about the grant and relieved because I don’t know what I would do if this program didn’t exist,” said Veronika Gilliland, senior psychology major.

MOSAIC and other community intervention programs are run by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Jeopardy Program, Jack London Continuation High School, Positive Alternatives for Youth and the San Fernando Partnership. MOSAIC focuses its efforts on under-staffed and under-funded after-school programs, Rubin said.

“There are 40 college student mentors who each serve 300 hours, 20 hours each semester, providing 7,250 hours of service to CSUN’s partner sites,” Rubin said.

In three years, CSUN students will offer 43,500 hours of daily academic tutoring, enrichment activities, counseling, vocational education, and life skills to over 1,000 youths at risk of joining gangs, she said.

MOSAIC was founded in 1997 to integrate community service with instruction by enriching learning experiences, civic responsibility and strengthen communities, Rubin said.

“We help other programs who are struggling, need extra help and who aren’t their own agent, like (Positive Alternatives for Youth),” said Jennifer Roman, program coordinator of MOSAIC.

PAY is one of the youth empowerment programs MOSAIC mentors are involved in. It is a wall-to-canvas program where young graffiti artists transfer their artistic ability to the canvas instead of destroying public property.

MOSAIC mentors help students from participating last chance high schools with after-school activities, such as planning field trips, organizing study groups, and getting students involved in arts and communication.

“We use kid culture as a tool, like hip-hop and rap, to get kids involved and to engage them positively,” Roman said. “You can’t be afraid of youth culture.”

Roman oversees the program, from scheduling to setting up field trips. She observes how students adjust to mentors and activities. She also manages the grant funding.

“We want to give students positive environments they can go to; to let them know that their community cares about their success,” she said.

Students who become MOSAIC mentors must be committed to the program.

“It’s about 15 hours a week, Monday through Friday where mentors tutor and set up workshops talking about everyday issues students struggle with such as, drugs, sex, abuse, and gang-prevention,” Gilliland said.

MOSAIC students who serve 300 hours are enrolled in Soc 496, an experimental sociology course.

“We take them to college campuses to break their perception of the college student and to show them that we are normal people just like them, so they can aspire to go to college,” Gilliland said. “Now we can continue to take students on fun field trips with help from our grant.”

Gilliland said she wants to be a social worker after she graduates from CSUN.

“(MOSAIC has) helped me make a decision on what career path to chose,” Gilliland said.

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