California Begins Service Program for College Students

Students celebrated in October as they became the first class of the California College Corps Fellows in Sacramento, earning $10,000 for committing one year of community service.Credit…Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

Of the hundreds of laws signed and initiatives overseen by Gov. Gavin Newsom while in office, a new state program is the one that he’s “probably more proud” of than anything else.

The California College Corps, a state program that began this year, selects low-income college students to complete community service in exchange for $10,000 to spend on tuition and living expenses. The aim is to help students reduce their debt, while empowering civic action and addressing problems in the state, including education gaps, food insecurity and climate change.

“Instead of working at a restaurant or a cafe, now you’re going to have the chance to tutor, mentor, take climate action, go to food banks and do other important work,” California’s chief service officer, Josh Fryday, told me. “We really think this is an exciting and unique model, and it’s a model that we hope gets emulated by other states and around the country.”

The four-year program is funded by approximately $300 million in state money, and about 13,000 students are expected to enroll through 2026.

To select the first class of students this fall, the state partnered with 46 California college campuses, including U.C. Berkeley, Fresno City College and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, for help in choosing students who could most benefit. The inaugural class of 3,200 was sworn in at a ceremony in Sacramento in October.

Over the course of the academic year, the students will serve 450 hours, which is about 15 hours a week. Half of the fellows are spending that time tutoring and mentoring in low-income schools in an effort to address the state’s Covid-driven learning loss, Fryday said. Others are building community gardens, planting trees, working at food banks or participating in other local community-service projects identified by their colleges.

The program’s first class includes more than 500 California Dream Act students, who came to the U.S. as undocumented immigrants but otherwise qualify for in-state tuition in California. Typically, undocumented students can’t participate in national service programs because federal rules prohibit them from receiving funding.

“It’s one of the aspects of the program that we’re most proud of,” Fryday told me. The class is also mostly composed of first-generation college students, and more than 80 percent are people of color.

Newsom said he hoped community service work would help the college students discover their purpose, “their North Star” that would guide them through their professional and personal lives.

“Honestly there’s nothing that enlivens me more than the fact that you’re on your journey to figure it out,” he said at the swearing-in ceremony.

More on California

  • San Francisco’s Empty Downtown: Tech workers are still at home. The $17 salad place is expanding into the suburbs. Today San Francisco has what is perhaps the most deserted major downtown in America.
  • U.C. Employee Strike: The University of California and academic workers announced a tentative labor agreement, signaling a potential end to a high-profile strike that has disrupted the system for more than a month.
  • Los Angeles’s New Mayor: Karen Bass was sworn in as the first female mayor of the nation’s second-largest city in a ceremony that celebrated her historic win but also underscored the obstacles ahead.
  • Ban on Flavored Tobacco: The Supreme Court refused to block a state law banning flavored tobacco, clearing the way for the ban to take effect.

The arresting portrait hung in Joan Didion’s apartment for years, though she knew little about who painted it, or why.Credit…Albert Watson

If you read one story, make it this

The origins of a mysterious painting in Joan Didion’s house have finally been revealed.

Lawyers for Harvey Weinstein sought to highlight discrepancies in accounts by witnesses.Credit…Pool photo by Etienne Laurent

The rest of the news

  • Weinstein verdict: After more than nine days of deliberations, jurors convicted the former movie producer Harvey Weinstein on three counts of rape and sexual assault, but acquitted him on one count and could not reach a decision on three more counts.

  • Mushrooms: A bill introduced by mental health professionals and veteran groups would legalize psychedelic drugs, such as “magic mushrooms” and ayahuasca, The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • Narcan: Assemblyman Matt Haney proposed legislation that would require California bars, public libraries, gas stations and single-room-occupancy hotels to have Narcan kits on hand, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.


  • Nature preserve: After a decades-long fight against Orange County, the nonprofit Trust for Public Land completed the purchase of the 384-acre Banning Ranch property, The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • City Council: A new poll revealed that only 30 percent of Los Angeles voters had a favorable view of their 15-member City Council, while Karen Bass, the new mayor, held a 47 percent approval rating, The Los Angeles Times reports.


  • Wildfires: California recently released its latest Fire Hazard Severity Zone map, with Kern County having 641,441 acres ranked very high for wildfire risk, mostly in mountainous areas, The Bakersfield Californian reports.


  • Earthquake: Humboldt County was shaken overnight by a magnitude 6.4 earthquake that damaged buildings and knocked out power to tens of thousands of customers. The quake struck at 2:34 a.m., about 12 miles west of Ferndale, the United States Geological Survey reported.

  • College closure: Holy Names University, a 154-year-old Catholic university in Oakland, is preparing to shut down at the end of the spring semester, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

  • Psych hospital: San Francisco announced plans to open its first psychiatric hospital specializing in youth needs, The San Francisco Examiner reports.

Credit…Sylvestre Fernandes for Sotheby’s International Realty

What you get

For $950,000: A Craftsman-style cottage in Los Angeles, a three-bedroom apartment in San Francisco and a midcentury ranch in Novato.

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times.

What we’re eating

Garlicky mashed potato cake.

Trees blanket the grounds of State Capitol Park in Sacramento.Credit…Photo By Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Where we’re traveling

Today’s tip comes from Adele Ohs, who recommends Capitol Park in Sacramento:

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

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Waves crashing at Ocean Beach, where three people saved a surfer from nearly drowning early this month.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

And before you go, some good news

On a stormy evening in San Francisco, Monica Gomez and Lucas Moore saw a surfboard floating off Ocean Beach. Then they saw a body facedown beside it.

The couple sprinted toward the water, and asked a bystander — Griffin De Luce — to call 911. Together, the three people dragged the unconscious surfer onto the shore and began CPR. The man’s body was cold, his lips blue and his eyes staring blankly.

But then he inhaled a ragged breath and coughed up salt water. He was alive.

When the surfer was later released from the hospital, he reunited with the people who helped rescue him, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. “I’m so grateful to be alive,” the surfer, a 56-year-old father of two, said. “It just gave me such an appreciation of life and happiness. I wake up every morning and go to bed happy.” (The Chronicle did not name the surfer at his request.)

The four people all met on Dec. 10 at a bakery in Larkspur. They described it as a surreal, overwhelming and emotional experience, with tears and hugs. They’re planning to go on a hike together in the East Bay next year.

“We’re all connected, friends for life,” De Luce said.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Briana Scalia and Allison Honors contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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