Giving back to the community is as natural to California State University, Northridge sophomore Travis White as breathing and eating.
In the two years that he has been at CSUN, White has collected more than 16,000 articles of clothing, food and other items to be donated to the needy. He has organized fundraisers for research to combat cancer and spearheaded efforts to educate his fellow students on what it truly means to be poor. In addition to his volunteer efforts on campus, the psychology major also volunteers in the community and serves as a mentor to high school students interested in going to college.
His efforts have been recognized by Campus Compact, a national coalition of nearly 1,200 college and university presidents who are committed to fulfilling the public purpose of higher education, which last month named White a 2013 Newman Civic Fellow. He was one of only 181 student leaders from across the country who Campus Compact officials said are making the most of their college experiences to better understand themselves, the root causes of social issues and effective mechanisms for creating lasting change.
“These students represent the next generation of public problem solvers and civic leaders,” said Campus Compact President Maureen Curley. “They serve as national examples of the role that higher education can—and does—play in building stronger communities.”
Campus Compact officials noted that as the 2013 Newman Civic Fellows tackle community challenges, they provide fresh energy and perspective, inspire and mobilize others, and develop their own skills and potential.
White, 19, of Northridge, said he was honored to receive the fellowship.
“I’m still kind of speechless,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting something like this. What I do is just the way I grew up—when you see people in need, you help them. I grew up in Compton and you see a lot of families there who deal with poverty or bad life situations. It seems only natural to want to do something to help.”
Justin Weiss, activities coordinator of volunteer programs and services for Unified We Serve, CSUN’s community volunteer program, said White fits the ideal image of a Newman Civic Fellow.
“Travis is the epitome of what CSUN stands for in terms of the values and mission of the university,” Weiss said. “He goes above and beyond anything requested of him and he puts in an extra effort to make sure that the community’s needs are provided for.”
White has spent the past two years at CSUN actively looking for ways to bring students together to help those in need and make students aware of pertinent issues facing the community. He has spent his time as a leader with Unified We Serve to create innovative projects for his fellow students. His efforts have included helping to collect clothing, food, toys and books for the needy. He helped to create the university’s annual Zumbathon, which takes advantage of the popularity of Zumba, the new aerobics craze, to raise money for breast cancer research, as well as the Poverty Simulation, an annual event designed help CSUN students understand and appreciate what it means to live in poverty.
White also spends time volunteering at a local food bank, mentoring high school students and visiting homes in low-income neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley to assess the need for resources to be provided to families living below the poverty line.
Newman Civic Fellow awards are made in memory of Frank Newman, a founder of Campus Compact, who dedicated his life to creating systemic change through education reform. At the core of Newman’s leadership was a belief in the power of individuals to make a difference and in the power of connection with others.
As the only national higher education association dedicated solely to campus-based civic engagement, Campus Compact promotes public and community service that develops students’ citizenship skills, helps forge effective community/campus partnerships and provides resources and training for faculty seeking to integrate civic and community-based learning into the curriculum. Campus Compact’s membership includes public, private, two- and four-year institutions across the spectrum of higher education.
California State University, Northridge has more than 36,000 full- and part-time students and offers undergraduate degrees in 63 disciplines, graduate degrees in 57 fields, doctorates in education and physical therapy and a variety of credential and certificate programs.
Founded in 1958, CSUN is among the largest single-campus universities in the nation and the only four-year public university in the San Fernando Valley. The university is home to dozens of nationally recognized programs where students gain valuable hands-on experience working alongside faculty and industry professionals, whether in the sciences, health care and engineering or education, political science, the arts and the social sciences. While regionally focused, the university’s faculty and administrators recognize the important role its students and alumni play in shaping the future of the state and the nation.