USC’s Good Neighbors Campaign continued its tradition of local support by awarding $1.4 million to community partners and educational partnership groups.

“You are all making a difference,” said Carolina Castillo, campaign director for the Good Neighbors Campaign, to a room of donors, volunteers and community partners during the annual grant ceremony, held Sept. 3 at the Galen Center.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the USC faculty- and staff-driven donation campaign that has generated over $25 million for more than 900 community-based programs.

“It’s about neighbors, the children that live in the neighborhoods, the families that live here, and all of us working together to make sure that we can thrive together,” USC President Carol L. Folt said.

One of the programs funded by the campaign is the USC Science, Technology and Research Program (STAR). The program provided a life-changing experience for guest speaker Fernando Sanchez, who attends Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet School in Boyle Heights.

“The program gave me a sense that being a scientist is a real possibility for me,” he said. “I wasn’t confident when I started high school, but it has provided me with hands-on experience and showed me that I do belong and that I can do this.”

Because of his participation in the program, Sanchez has been able to enter multiple science, technology, engineering and math competitions.

“I learned the meaning of stepping out of my comfort zone,” he said. “I have to admit that it was intimidating, but I left my neighborhood of Boyle Heights to compete in a statewide competition with other high school and college students.”

The Good Neighbors Campaign is funding over 50 education, arts, family and safety neighborhood programs that support the communities surrounding the University Park and Health Sciences campuses. The programs funded by the Good Neighbors Campaign include USC STAR, the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative and Troy Camp. Learn more about the Good Neighbors Campaign and view the full list of 2019-2020 grantees online.

— Saul Garcia