Volunteers Earn Money for School Through College Corps Program

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What if you could pay for college by volunteering in a food bank, planting trees, or even tutoring children?

California has a new program that brought all of those needs together. 

For Yair Rivera, working in this food pantry hits close to home.

The 21-year old Irvine Valley College student remembers his own struggles as a foster child. 

Today he’s a business major working his way through school hoping to graduate debt free.

“As you guys can see bread goes by fast…goes  by in minutes," Rivera said.

Rivera joined the California College Corps to earn his own bread. For every 450 hours of community service he will get $10,000 towards living expenses.


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“Coming into this environment it's emotional because I can relate to people with food insecurities and stuff,” Rivera said. 

For South County Outreach, the infusion of student volunteers is exactly what they needed.

“The energy around young people giving back to their community is contagious.”

The non-profit is in the midst of an economic tipping point, adding 60 households a month to their food program.

“If it wasn’t for these students right this minute we couldn’t meet the demand  because of inflation it's grown and grown and grown,” Laval Brewer, CEO of South County Outreach, said.  

Clients like Rosie Harris are taking notice. The single 78-year old says the food pantry fills her with more than kitchen staples.

“They help with the food but you can get food and the person treats you nasty that’s not good and they’re not like that,” Harris said. 

The College Corps was formed by the California Volunteers commission, the first class of 3,200 sworn in last month by governor Gavin Newsom.

Currently, South County Outreach relies on 1,500 volunteers a year; they say the California College Corps is a small but mighty group of 18. 

josh fryday/ca college corps

“We know young people facing student debt crisis in this country. We also know that we have real community needs around climate food insecurity and education loss and polarized society so this is a program that is a win win win,” Josh Fryday of California College Corps said.

And for students like Rivera, it’s a lesson he’d never get in a classroom. 

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