Communities

Working with our neighbors to build a strong community

The spirit of giving, 1.6 million times over

Tristan Baizar, a graduate of the Neighborhood Academic Initiative, turned down offers from 13 colleges to pursue his dream of attending USC. (USC Photo/Steve Cohn)

September 25, 2013

USC freshman Tristan Baizar received a standing ovation from the 400 guests at the third annual Good Neighbors Campaign (GNC) President’s Leadership Circle dinner, hosted by USC President C. L. Nikias and first lady Niki C. Nikias on Sept. 24 at their home in San Marino, Calif.

“I don’t believe I would be standing before you tonight as a proud new Trojan if it wasn’t for NAI and wonderful folks like you who donate to programs you believe in,” said Baizar, who is majoring in accounting. “As you can see, I am a true-life example that it works. The contribution, commitment and the love works to produce strong, educated, college-ready scholars like myself, and many others like me and before me.”

The GNC, currently in its 19th year, is a unique employee-giving program that supports community-based partnership activities throughout the neighborhoods surrounding the University Park and Health Science campuses. To date, the campaign has raised more than $16 million entirely earmarked for community program support.

The Leadership Circle comprises top employee contributors who’ve donated 1 percent (or more) of their annual salary to the campaign. For the 2012-2013 GNC  year, more than 500 employees in this echelon contributed $680,000 toward the final total of $1.6 million.

One of the signature programs supported by the campaign is the Neighborhood Academic Program (NAI), a seven-year pre-college enrichment program that prepares low-income neighborhood students for admission to a college or university.

“Your generosity gives others opportunity. Your generosity gives others direction,” Nikias told attendees. “More importantly, your generosity gives others hope.”

Robin Romans, associate provost of the USC Arts and Humanities Initiative, said he gives a percentage of his salary to GNC because he knows 100 percent of his donation goes toward community programs.

“One of the great things about this program is that USC absorbs all overhead costs,” Romans said. “This allows the entirety of our contributions to go to program support.”

Other Trojans are also motivated by programs that personally inspire them.

Janella Chiang, academic services manager at the USC Marshall School of Business, has given a percentage of her salary for nearly 10 years to support programs like Kid Watch.

“To have community members come out of their homes each day to make sure kids feel safe and looked after is really special,” Chiang said. “We support them and encourage the elementary school kids as they go to and from school.”

Added Martha Escutia, vice president for USC Government Relations: “At its core, the Good Neighbor Campaign is about people. It’s about students who might not have not had a chance but are finally given an opportunity; it’s about families who face many challenges but are willing to work with us to find solutions. And it’s about people who display an incredible heart for service and a wonderful spirit of generosity.”

Related stories:

Daily Trojan: USC NAI plans to expand 

LA Times: USC scholarship program keeps parents in the 7-year process

USC News: Trojans in training, in East Los Angeles

La Opinion: Guiaran estudiantes hasta la universidad

The Wave: USC expands NAI program to Eastside