Two recent Occidental graduates have been selected for full-time, year-long community service and leadership development posts.
Alexander Smith '09 was one of 150 young adults chosen for City Year Los Angeles to work for a year as tutors and mentors for K-8 students in underserved neighborhoods. Drea Chicas '09 was accepted into the year-long Public Allies leadership program in Los Angeles. Chicas will be working for the nonprofit group Esperanza Community Housing.
The two Occidental alumni are the latest expression of a longstanding commitment to civic engagement and public service at Occidental, which last year was selected as a community engagement institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and has been named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for four consecutive years.
Smith, a music major from North Kingstown, R.I., will be sworn into his year of service with City Year at 9 a.m. on Sept. 30 at City Hall. Featured speakers will be Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines.
"I knew that I wanted to spend my first year after college in service," Smith said. "Having spent 19 years focused on my own education and growth, returning the favor feels like a good idea."
Music department chair Irene Girton, who wrote Smith's recommendation for City Year, said of her former student: "Alex has been helping others learn for years. He worked with peers in high school, tutoring chemistry; he teaches drumming; and he has served as a tutor and mentor to a homeless first-grader here in Los Angeles."
Chicas, an urban and environmental policy major from San Francisco, said, "Public Allies focuses on training and developing leadership skills in young activists who are eager to work in their communities and change many of the injustices that abound. That person would be me, which is why I decided to apply. It is important to recognize and strengthen the good in our communities. Through Public Allies, I hope to continue to learn how to build institutions, alliances, coalitions and people power to dismantle the injustices in my community."
Peter Dreier, Dr. E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and chair of the Urban and Environmental Policy Program at Occidental, said, "While she was a student, Drea participated in many internships that gave her first-hand experience working with people to improve their lives and change policy. Drea doesn't have her head in the clouds. She has her feet on the ground. It is an honor for Drea and for Oxy that Public Allies has accepted her into their wonderful leadership program."
City Year (www.cityyear.org) unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service, giving them the skills and opportunities to make a difference. As tutors, mentors and role models, these diverse young leaders affect the lives of children and transform schools and neighborhoods across the United States and in South Africa.
Public Allies (www.publicallies.org) is a national movement with a mission to advance new leadership to strengthen communities, nonprofits and civic participation through paid full-time nonprofit apprenticeships and rigorous leadership training.