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UCLA students and staff stress promote the importance of the 2010 Census

By Srbui Karapetian

Feb. 4, 2010 11:00 p.m.

The 2010 Census, an official decennial population count of all residents in the United States, will determine the allocation of more than $400 billion in federal funding each year for the next decade.

And it is fast approaching.

But even as more than 60 percent of adults ages 30 and older consider the census important, only 45 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 find it just as significant, according to a recently released national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

In response to this comparative indifference among younger generations, many UCLA students and staff members are making concerted efforts to raise awareness about its importance in the campus community.

Among them is fourth-year international development studies student Brian Chiu, who is currently working for the Asian American Studies Center to develop an outreach and education campaign for UCLA students.

“My job is to reach out more specifically to students from under-served communities who may have reservations about filling out the census or may not know anything about it,” he said.

In October 2000, the Asian American Studies Center became one of the only three Southern California contributors to the Census Information Center, a nationwide network of organizations that give different communities greater access to census data through the release of updates and reports, said the Census Information Center’s project coordinator Melany de la Cruz. The center receives census-related outreach materials, such as informational pamphlets and fliers in various languages from the U.S. Census Bureau and distributes them to students, Chiu said.

In fact, distributing such materials is among the many ways the U.S. Census Bureau is reaching out to college campuses.

Through the bureau’s special initiative for college campuses, outreach workers have been conducting 2010 census presentations on campuses, said Census Bureau media specialist Lynne Choy.

The partnership program ensures that its employees are bilingual in 30 different languages, so that immigrant groups, who are the most underrepresented in census counts, are well-informed about the census, she added.

For students, lack of participation puts at stake the amount of federal funding that would be allocated to Cal Grants, Title I grants, and Head Start programs, which are geared toward providing aid and creating opportunities for students from lower-income families, Chiu said.

For citizens, congressional representation, which depends on the population count in a given district, and the distribution of funding for hospitals and roads is at stake, said Michael Stoll, chair of the department of public policy in the School of Public Affairs.

As a case in point, Stoll explained how transportation dollars are tied to population densities, suggesting that cities could lose out on large amounts of federal money if city residents do not participate.

In an attempt to raise awareness about the census, Chiu is helping De la Cruz prepare for a workshop they will conduct on Feb. 17 in the Student Activities Center, to explain to students how the census is being implemented and why it is important to participate, Chiu said.

The center is currently looking for student groups who will cosponsor the event and motivate their members to attend, said fourth-year environmental science student Susa Khy, who also works at the Asian American Studies Center.

Meanwhile, resident assistants are sending out e-mails to students in dorm rooms reminding them to anticipate the census forms and to complete them in a timely manner, said Rob Kadota, assistant director of the Office of Residential Life.

Students who live in dorm rooms should not be included in their parents’ census form, but will be counted as part of an operation known as “Group Quarters Enumeration,” Choy said.

If a student lives in a shared apartment with roommates, then the household should fill out the form as a “household residence,” she added.

International students who are not visiting for a short time, but are living in the United States as residents, should also participate, said Paul Ong, professor in the department of urban planning. He added that students from immigrant families can play an important role in helping their parents fill out the forms.

Once census data is gathered, the population count is reported to the president in December 2010. In the end, both the census bureau and the UCLA community are hoping to drive one clear message home ““ that everyone in America counts.

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