CSUN Creates Scholarship Program for Canoga Park Residents

Members of the Canoga Park community and CSUN officials celebrate the creation of the Bridge to the Future Scholars program at a gala on Feb. 6. Photo by Victor Kamont.

Members of the Canoga Park community and CSUN officials celebrate the creation of the Bridge to the Future Scholars program at a gala on Feb. 6. Photo by Victor Kamont.

California State University, Northridge officials announced Friday night the creation of a scholarship program that would cover CSUN tuition for high school students from Canoga Park who are committed to giving back to their community.

Through the Bridge to the Future Scholars program, CSUN officials said the university intends to offer free tuition to up to 100 high school graduates from Canoga Park each year who meet the program’s qualifications. The announcement was made during a gala celebration in Canoga Park that honored the university for its outreach in the area.

“At the heart of this program is the desire for young people to give back to their home community,” said CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison. “Through dedicated service, we believe the next generation of Canoga Park leaders will emerge who are informed with the highest level of knowledge and skills that our programs at CSUN can provide.”

Canoga Park officials said they were thrilled by the creation of the scholarship program.

“The scholarship program will serve as a multifaceted approach toward bringing out the voices of students who are silent and tearing down barriers preventing students from accessing the American dream,” said Luis Rodriguez-Cazares, principal of Canoga Park High School. “The emphasis on giving back to the community fosters the reinvestment of economics and social capital within the community by reinforcing the core values we have worked to instill in our students and encouraging them to ‘pay it forward.’

“On a wider scale, the program compels and lays the foundation — developing a robust infrastructure and augmenting social capital — for other leaders to follow when looking to implement similar pathways to educational opportunity,” he said.

To build community service awareness and participation among local youth, CSUN and Canoga Park officials said scholarship recipients will be required to volunteer and, if possible, return to Canoga Park to work after graduation.

The scholarship program grew out of an initiative, Neighborhood Partners in Action (NPA), launched by CSUN faculty, staff and students three years ago to help build bridges among community-based organizations and stakeholders in Canoga Park. The initiative fosters communication and collaboration among the stakeholders and with the university.

CSUN officials spent the first few months of the initiative listening to community leaders as they talked about what services they felt were lacking in their area. Faculty, students and staff then worked with community leaders to identify resources they could tap into and areas where university programs could fill gaps.

The successful, ongoing programs include nutrition education and food bank assistance from CSUN’s Marilyn Magaram Center for Food Science, Nutrition and Dietetics to the Guadelupe Center and Child Development Institute; on-site tuberculosis testing provided by Providence Health and Services for men in the recovery program at the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center; CSUN social work interns working with El Centro de Amistad; an oral history project by CSUN students and student veterans, working with senior veterans at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2805; and leadership development training and an all-sports day led by the CSUN baseball team at Coutin School, R.U.T.H. YouthBuild and other Canoga Park schools and centers.

CSUN students, faculty and staff also are working with the area’s K-12 schools, initiating math and science tutoring, drama and music classes and college-prep programs. They also are working to provide after-school activities with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Topanga PAL’s and the Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley. NPA helped launch a robotics and space academy that brings Canoga Park High School student volunteers to Columbus Middle School and Hart Street Elementary School to build robots and serve as mentors.

“The goal of NPA is to be a good neighbor — and by good neighbor, we mean establishing a very long-term, reciprocal partnership that is evolutionary in nature and that meets the needs of the Canoga Park community and the campus,” said recreation and tourism management professor Craig Finney, who leads the initiative on behalf of CSUN’s Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing. “That is exactly what has happened. Authentic partnerships are based on trust, mutual respect and the mutual understanding that we all benefit from the sharing and leveraging of resources. The scholarship program is just another example of what we can accomplish when we work together. From the students who participate in the Bridge to the Future Scholars Program, we will see impacts and influences to Canoga Park and beyond what we can imagine at this time.”

Below is Harrison’s video presentation shown at the Canoga Park gala celebration.

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