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Supporting community partner projects through the Community Engaged Learning Project Development Fund

Staff from the nonprofit Foundation for a College Education

The Cardinal Courses team distributed $35,000 through a one-time Community Engaged Learning Project Development Fund. This fund was created in order to provide resources for faculty and community partners to design Cardinal Course projects, expand partnerships, bridge Cardinal Courses with other Cardinal Service elements, and create preparation materials for students. 

The funds were distributed to 12 groups consisting of two faculty, six community partners, and four co-designed projects. These projects have a wide range of diversity in not only the fields that are represented, but also the multigenerational collaboration occurring within the projects.

One such project that received support from this fund was developed by the organization Foundation for a College Education (FCE), who works to support first-generation, low-income students of color in East Palo Alto and similar communities in their journey to graduate from a four-year college or university. This year, they launched a new curriculum that was specifically designed to bolster students’ mental health education, with an objective to create space for conversation and de-stigmatize mental illness and therapy.

Before the fund was launched, FCE’s executive director Elizabeth Wells partnered with the Haas Center for Public Service and Director of Community Engaged Learning in Education Paitra Houts during the 2022-23 academic year to start the process of creating the curriculum. Undergraduate student researchers from Dr. Farzana Saleem’s PSYCH 161/EDUC 461: Community Engaged Psychology and Education Field Experience interviewed families and students to assess their needs. This led to the recommendation of a Mental Health Toolkit that could act as a resource for peer-facilitated conversations and activities.

Through the fund, FCE hired Albert Lowe, a master’s student in policy organization and leadership studies and former assistant principal, in the summer of 2023 to lead the development of the curriculum. Through weekly meetings with staff and the contributions of other local community partners, they developed a sequence of lessons designed to deepen students’ understanding of mental health and provide tools to deal with stress.

The curriculum was launched on September 26 at the FCE headquarters in the East Palo Alto to a growing group of high school and college students, who attended in person and virtually. Throughout this pilot year, they will seek regular feedback from the community to better serve the needs of their students.

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