By Sara Reeve

How many high school students voluntarily give up many of their Saturdays just to go to school? Every year, more than 185 Los Angeles students do just that, in the USC Med-COR program, funded in part thanks to the USC Good Neighbors Campaign.

USC’s staff, faculty and friends can pledge to help organizations that improve the community by promoting better health and educational opportunities in the areas surrounding both the Health Sciences and University Park Campuses.

The 2013 USC Good Neighbors Campaign kicked off on Oct. 1 and runs through the end of the month. Begun in 1994, the USC Good Neighbors Campaign encourages USC faculty and staff to contribute a portion of their paychecks to support programs through grants from USC Neighborhood Outreach (UNO) and United Way.

Fifty UNO grants were awarded in June 2013 to partnership programs developed between the university and local community organizations. Of those 50, 23 grants went to programs surrounding the Health Sciences Campus community.

One of the programs to receive funding is the Med-COR program. Originally founded in 1970, Med-COR, which stands for Medical Counseling Organizing and Recruiting, works with high school students of color to help prepare them for careers in the health professions.

“The Med-COR program exposes underrepresented minorities living in inner-city communities of Los Angeles to health professional careers and helps them become competitively eligible for admission to top universities,” said Joyce Richey, PhD, director of the USC Med-COR program. “The process of attaining higher education can be intimidating for some minority students and their families, particularly first-generation college students. Med-COR has ensured that the student participants and their parents receive financial aid, academic advising and SAT preparation through a series of workshops. Parents are engaged and have organized a support group that meets monthly to receive helpful information about the program activities.”

The program currently serves 188 students from four local schools: Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School, King-Drew Medical Magnet High School, Orthopaedic Hospital Medical Magnet High School and Van Nuys High School.

Richey believes strongly that Med-COR and the UNO grants that have helped to support the program send a positive message to the university’s surrounding communities.

“The UNO grants show that the university has taken an active role in solving some of the most pressing issues faced by the predominantly Latino and African American population surrounding the University Park and Health Sciences Campuses,” said Richey, who is also an assistant dean of educational affairs and faculty at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “The USC partnership requirement with local organizations has allowed the university to collaborate with organization leaders to implement programs that will ultimately lead to improvements and overall wellness of the community.”

To date, the Good Neighbors Campaign has raised more than $16 million to support more than 550 community partnership grants. For more information, visit