Working with our neighbors to build a strong community

USC Penny Harvest

Murchison Sheridan Griffin

Penny Harvest Homeboy Industries 2

The USC Penny Harvest Leadership Academy empowers Los Angeles-area elementary school students to give back to their community and provides USC students– from USC Dornsife and USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism– with practical experience in civic engagement and nonprofit leadership.

The national Penny Harvest program engages K-8 students in youth philanthropy. Children in participating schools raise money, deliberate on how to spend their funds, develop service projects and ultimately present grant checks to the nonprofits of their choice.

“The children have complete control over how the money is spent, so it teaches them leadership, decision-making and how to make a difference,” said Ann Crigler, political science professor at USC Dornsife. “And our students learn how to apply theory in the real world, and how volunteer work is connected to the larger social justice and political systems.”

Crigler launched her “Applied Politics: Civic Engagement and Leadership” course in 2012 to give undergraduates the chance to implement and facilitate the Penny Harvest program in local schools. Today, the program reaches more than 3,000 L.A. kids.

Students in USC Annenberg Professor Tom Goodnight’s civic engagement course have since joined the project. “It’s a way of connecting our undergraduates to the community,” Goodnight said.

“The USC Penny Harvest not only gets students thinking about community issues, it teaches them how to engage,” said Craig Keys, Associate Senior Vice President of Civic Engagement, “they are getting to know their community and are connecting with community organizations and members who are taking on the issues of importance to our community”

This year, local elementary students collected $5200 in pennies and presented their contributions to the following organizations:

Resurrection Catholic Elementary School raised $1,327.41
Granted to: Homeboy Industries

Sheridan Elementary raised $1,506.63
Grant recipients:
Concept 7 Foster Family Services ($750)
Unification of Disabled Latin Americans ($756.63)

Griffin Avenue Elementary School raised $1,424
Grant recipients:
Los Angeles Animal Services ($356)
USC Norris Cancer Center ($356)
LA Family Housing ($356 for shelter) ($356 for food bank)

Murchison Street Elementary School faised $1546.41
Grant recipients:
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles ($1,000)
Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA ($546.41)

Lou Dantzler Preparatory Elementary School raised $700
Grant recipients
Homeboy Industries ($350)
JFS Care ($350)

Zul Surani
Executive Director of Community Partnerships, Health Sciences Campus
USC Civic Engagement
(323) 442-7808


USC Communities: Penny Harvest wrapped up its third successful year

USC Dornsife: Positive Change

USC News: A Penny For The Thoughts of Young Philanthropists

Penny Harvest End of Year Flyer