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Among the recipients of Chancellor's Fund grants this year was Greening Berkeley, a coalition of local environmental groups. Above, a small handful of the hundreds of Berkeley students expected to get their hands dirty by volunteering for the program this fall.
 

Chancellor's Fund lends a helping hand - or hundreds of them - to campus neighbors
Whether campus funding is for high-school students or historic paths, winning projects reflect Berkeley's 'deep commitment to serving our community'

| 22 August 2007

Seeking to bolster the efforts of local, community-based organizations to improve the quality of life for Berkeley residents, the Berkeley campus has awarded grants totaling $207,500 to a baker's dozen projects ranging from mentoring and mental-health services to habitat restoration and landscape rehabilitation.

2007-08 Chancellor's Community Partnership Fund grants

This year's community-service project grants were awarded to:

Berkeley High Student Court: School of Law (Boalt Hall) students work with Berkeley High School students to provide a positive alternative to suspension for students facing disciplinary action. ($7,000)

Berkeley High School Youth Organizing Team: This group engages high-school youth in multicultural, multi-racial leadership programs, advocating for youth-led school and community change. ($5,000)

Cal-Options Community Mental Health and Public Service Campaign: Free drug and alcohol recovery services, mental- health services and housing are provided to persons near campus who are drug-addicted. ($10,000)

Evaluation of the Berkeley Schools Mental Health Program: This program evaluates a new school-district mental-health program, measuring its success in improving the academic performance, health, and social/emotional well-being of students and increasing the knowledge and skills of school staff and service providers. ($10,000)

Family Resource Center (A Better Way): The center supports teacher training and community outreach to increase cultural competence and positive and equitable discipline practices at Rosa Parks Elementary School in Berkeley. ($10,000)

Informed by B-Tech:
Berkeley undergraduate and graduate students and faculty work with and mentor high-school students at Berkeley Technical Academy, engaging them in a yearlong research methods class focused on educational inequality. ($10,000)

Local Carbon Reduction Initiative: A Web resource is being developed for Berkeley residents and businesses to understand, measure, and reduce their carbon footprint. ($10,000)

Poetry in the Community: Visiting artists performing at Berkeley will also perform at Berkeley High School and La Peņa Cultural Center; student/teacher poets from Poetry for the People will conduct workshops at Berkeley High and Epic Arts, a nonprofit organization. ($10,000)

Youth Acupuncture Wellness Program: This program provides prevention, education, and treatment to address youth substance-abuse and mental-health problems, and gives free services to Berkeley youth at accessible locations, using acupuncture, among other techniques. ($15,000)

Neighborhood-improvement grants were awarded to:

Berkeley Teen Eco-Service Days:
Local teens get involved in two hands-on habitat-restoration days at Berkeley Aquatic Park. ($3,000)

Feasibility Study for Secondary, Emergency Access to Panoramic Hill: This study evaluates the engineering feasibility of a secondary, emergency road for Panoramic Hill. ($25,000)

Greening Berkeley Hands-On:
Materials and supplies are provided to help citizen groups create and restore people-friendly, biodiverse green spaces in their neighborhoods. ($17,000)

Piedmont Avenue Landscape Rehabilitation Plan:
This landscaping project honors an original Frederick Law Olmsted design for historic Piedmont Avenue between Dwight Way and Gayley Road. ($75,000)

The Chancellor's Community Partnership Fund will award grants annually through the year 2020.

The grants were made under the auspices of the Chancellor's Community Partnership Fund, established last year by Chancellor Birgeneau and funded by the university through an agreement between the campus and the city of Berkeley. Grantees fall into one of two categories: community support and service projects that enhance the economic, social, or cultural well-being of Berkeley residents; and neighborhood-improvement projects that enhance the physical environment of the city's neighborhoods.

This year's 13 winning projects were culled from 49 proposals that Birgeneau praised for their "variety and creativity." The projects, he said, "bring together the best efforts and thinking of the campus and local neighborhoods and civic organizations, and reflect their deep commitment to serving our community."

Grants from the fund, administered by the Office of Community Relations, were awarded this year to nine community-service projects and four neighborhood-improvement projects. Several 2007-08 awardees, including the Berkeley High Student Court and Greening Berkeley Hands-On, also received funding in 2006.

These repeat winners illustrate the two-pronged aims of the Chancellor's Fund. The two-year-old Berkeley High Student Court, for example, offers some teens facing possible suspension an opportunity to work with Boalt Hall law students in a mock-courtroom setting, where juries of their peers mete out less severe - and less academically damaging - sentences.

The program handled 47 cases last year, "a huge jump" from a caseload of 27 it managed the year before, says part-time coordinator David Luu, who attributes the increase to additional administrative personnel as well as to more extensive outreach to Berkeley High students.

And while avoiding suspension may be topmost in the minds of participating students, "it's about something bigger," explains Luu. "It's about fairness and justice. It's about giving students a bigger voice in what happens to them."

Annie Johnston, Berkeley High's teacher liaison to the student court, says about half the Chancellor's Fund grant - which totals $7,000 this year - will go to "support the connection we have built with Boalt Hall, through which law students come to BHS to teach students about court procedures and work with them to prepare cases for trial." The rest will be used to increase opportunities for community service and access to student-support resources.

"We greatly appreciate the support provided by the Chancellor's Fund," says Johnston, who adds that the grant "will significantly increase our links to community partners as we provide alternatives to suspension and avenues for students to be pulled into school."

Greening Berkeley, which received $17,000 for this academic year, marshals volunteers and provides materials to assist citizen groups in creating and restoring people-friendly, biodiverse green spaces in neighborhoods throughout the city of Berkeley. The program sprouted last year as a way to unite the efforts of several local environmental groups, including Friends of Five Creeks, the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association, Schoolhouse Creek Common, Aquatic Park EGRET, Berkeley Community Orchard, and Friends of Westbrae Commons.

Hundreds of Berkeley students are expected to take part in the program this fall, volunteering to help restore historic paths, clean up creeks, or improve community parks and gardens.

"Our goal is to bring students outdoors into the community to work alongside the people who live here," says Friends of Five Creeks' Susan Schwartz. "We hold regular volunteer work parties throughout the year - people can join us just for an afternoon and still be able to help make a difference."

In addition to funding a student coordinator, Greening Berkeley will use its Chancellor's Fund grant to purchase a variety of supplies including tools and gloves, native plants, and interpretive signs.

For the complete list of this year's 13 grantees, see the box above.

Lisa Lewis contributed reporting to this article.