The Office of Community Engagement (OCE) at the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine (KPSOM) recently launched the OCE Community Project Micro-Funds initiative, a new service-oriented project aimed at sponsoring student community service and volunteer efforts on passion projects that move beyond students’ typical curricular work. The school’s second-, third-, and fourth-year medical students were given the chance to engage in volunteerism or community service in an area of their own choosing within Greater Los Angeles. As part of the program’s competitive application process, each project team was asked to submit a comprehensive project proposal that included a project theme and concept; details on partnering community organizations and their work/mission; details on the project’s benefits and how the effort will support the community; and a budget that showcases how the project team will use the resources and materials from the OCE. The micro-funds project was opened in August 2023 to student organizations, special interest or affinity groups, and independently formed student teams, and special consideration was given to project proposals focused on the local Pasadena area. Project team allocation was limited to five student groups that received up to $500 each and all project deliverables are to be completed by November 30, 2023.
“The Office of Community Engagement’s mission is to bring the community to the school and the school into the community through education, outreach, practice, service, and research,” said Lori Carter-Edwards, PhD, MPH, KPSOM Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Government Affairs. “We’re really thrilled to announce the awardees of our micro-funds initiative. We started this initial opportunity to try to build opportunities for students to do community service in the space that they are interested in, and this time, over a three-month period in this pilot opportunity. Students are to consider these approaches for future activities and relationship-building, so they had to connect with a community organization, meet and identify a need by that community organization, complete their project in a reasonable time frame within the allotted three months, have a feasible budget, and identify ways to sustain the project.”
KPSOM students Dalja Parks and Malia Szyman also expressed excitement for their micro-funds project, which involves developing a community garden in partnership with Pasadena’s Family Center at Union Station Homeless Services.
“It is important to take part in this project for the community because I believe access to fresh fruits and vegetables is something that everyone should be able to easily access,” said Parks. “Not only does gardening provide a source of fresh fruits and vegetables, but it also provides outdoor activity to keep one fit and provides a sense of community and empowerment. I have always loved gardening and attending farmers markets so this is one way that I can give back to the community in a way that I found so much joy, and hopefully, I can provide the joy along with the mental and health benefits that come with a community garden for the residents at Union Station.”
Szyman added, “I am excited about doing this project because I believe that access to fresh fruits and vegetables should be available for all people. In addition, I think that planting gardens strengthens communities, improves the environment, and gets people outside, all while adding beauty to a space!”
Winning project participants and details are as follows:
Bennett Gosiker | Nghiem Nguyen | Blake Colton | Juliette Dowe
- Provide gender-affirming, transition-related materials that can be cost-prohibitive and not covered by insurance, in partnership with St. John’s Community Health Transgender Program
Paula Hornstein | Jesus Fuentes
- Assemble and distribute dental kits to people in West LA who are experiencing homelessness, in partnership with the Venice Family Clinic Homeless Services and Health Equity Team
Dalja Parks | Malia Szyman
- Develop a community garden in partnership with the Family Center at Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena
Ariel Silverman | Olivia Goodman | Margaret Chell | Elena Dennis | Noah Contreras
- Conduct a mentorship program at LA’s Da Vinci Rise High School with students from non-traditional backgrounds (such as foster care) to explore higher education as well as career paths in medicine using doctoring kits
May Let Wah | Tanya Watarastaporn
- Develop and deliver an informational workshop and career resources with Wat Thai of Los Angeles in Panorama City on college pathways for underserved youth in immigrant Thai and Southeast Asian communities