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Community Programs Office seeks student fee to continue projects

By Rotem Ben-Shachar

April 26, 2009 10:45 pm

The UCLA Community Programs Office houses 24 student-run student-initiated projects that go into Los Angeles communities to address health, youth education and social justice issues.

In the past year, the office has added two new projects, but due to funding restrictions, they may not be able to continue expanding and offering services to students in the future.

The organization has signed on to the referendum, Practicing Leadership and Empowerment to Develop Growth thru Education, which would increase student fees by $12.75 per quarter.

The Community Programs Office would receive 75 cents of this money. This money would be given to the Community Programs Office Student Association, the organization’s administrative governing body, for an operating budget.

This budget would allow the student association to hire an administrative assistant, buy supplies needed for workshops and retreats, and possibly receive stipends for their work, said Frank Rodriguez, chair of the association.

“The referendum will allow us to continue growing and make sure (the projects) are secure and strong for the future,” Rodriguez said.

The Community Programs Office Students Association consists of a chair, vice chair, fiscal coordinator, and six project representatives.

Among other duties, it familiarizes projects such as Teach for Change, in which students educate high school students about the genocide in Darfur and other genocides, and Project One, a mentoring program for high school students dealing with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, with the administrative duties needed to run a project.

“The board is here for service projects to continue to do the work they do,” Rodriguez said.

With each project ranging from 10 to over 100 members, the association is in charge of hundreds of volunteers.

The governing body is responsible for helping projects with recruiting, outreach and retention, Rodriguez said.

“If we don’t receive this money, recruitment and retention will plummet because we don’t have the resources,” said Shahida Bawa, a representative for the health projects in the association.

The organization also provides workshops on funding and facilitating communication between projects, Bawa said.

Past events have included a networking night, an all-project service day, and project retreats and orientations.

“Having (the association) allows projects to come together in solidarity for issues and improve our impact on the communities we serve,” Bawa said.

In the past, the organization has received money from different funding sources on campus as well as from selling school planners, but it is a continual struggle to receive these funds, especially as the office continues to grow, Rodriguez said.

“It takes away from our authenticity if we don’t have our own money,” Rodriguez said.

Currently the association does not receive money for small administrative tasks such as making copies and other office supplies.

“It seems like something so mundane, but copies definitely add up,” Bawa said.

Rodriguez said he is also worried that if association leaders don’t receive stipends, it will become increasingly difficult to maintain members.

“The body is very strong, but in a few years, we don’t know how consistent it will be,” Rodriguez said. “It’s difficult to find people who can put in the time needed.”

Rodriguez joined the organization after becoming involved in Proyecto de Jornaleros, a project that works with day laborers, many of whom are undocumented and cannot speak English. Students teach these workers English, inform them of their rights, and bring them on campus for computer classes.

He is currently chair of the association and a project director for Proyecto de Jornaleros.

“Basically if I’m not in class, I’m at the CPO,” he said. “It’s difficult to find people who want to put in this amount of time.”

The organization has been a part of UCLA since 1969, said Vusi Azania, advisor for UCLA Community Programs Office. If the referendum passes, the organization will continue to struggle to provide its services.

“The referendum is a way to empower students to have a larger voice in the community,” Azania said.

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Rotem Ben-Shachar
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