Category Archives: Unified City

Riverside Couple Collaborates To Better The Lives Of Others

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Melanie C. Johnson and published in The Press Enterprise on March 13, 2015.)

Damien and Jenn O'Farrell with one-year-old daughter Marleigh. The couple, dedicated to community service, won a Riverside Heroes Award late last year. Photo Credit: Melanie Johnson, Contributing Photographer
Damien and Jenn O’Farrell with one-year-old daughter Marleigh. The couple, dedicated to community service, won a Riverside Heroes Award late last year. Photo Credit: Melanie Johnson, Contributing Photographer

Riverside residents Damien and Jennifer “Jenn” O’Farrell see their desire to serve their community as just a part of who they are.

For Damien, a former church youth pastor, it’s his calling. Jenn traces it back to her childhood, when she would go with her mom to visit her great grandfather at a senior-living facility. They would cap the day by going to the rooms of other residents to offer greetings.

Besides their jobs and their respective leadership roles for other nonprofits, such as Operation SafeHouse and Today’s Urban Renewal Network, the couple also volunteers for community organizations and initiatives. Jenn serves on the Riverside Community Health Foundation’s board and is a three-term past board president of the YWCA. While involved in Riverside’s leadership program, she and others in her class created an annual bike ride that benefits the Riverside and Alvord Unified school districts. The event, the Riverside Citrus City Classic, is in its fourth year.

Damien serves on the Riverside Neighborhood Partnership and both he and Jenn worked with others to co-found Pick Group, an organization that brings young professionals together to socialize and find ways to impact the community socially.

Damien has been at the helm of Path of Life Ministries in Riverside for seven years. His organization has three shelter programs for homeless individuals and families with children. Most of the 1,500 people the nonprofit serves in its shelters are children under the age of 10, he said.

Other nonprofits Path of Life has launched include Health to Hope Clinics, which offers medical services to people in need, and Path of Life Enterprises, a transitional employment program. The first business opened under that program is Angel Wings Bakery, which sells its goods online, he said.

Jenn has been with the newly formed Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Inland Empire chapter for a year. The program serves at-risk children and youth ages 6 to 18, providing them with a one-on-one mentor. Before this post, she previously co-facilitated a task force on human trafficking.

In working with victims of human trafficking, she said she learned from the teen girls she served that if they had positive role models and mentors earlier in life, their lives might have taken a different path.

“Seventy-five percent of those we serve come from single-family homes and are at risk for homelessness or gang violence, so mentors are needed at the tipping point to point them in another direction,” she said. “All of us have had a mentor at some point. While our mentors happen naturally, it’s not happening for the children we serve.”

Damien said while some may see problems such as homelessness or human trafficking as impenetrable, he feels efforts to make the community better do have an impact.

“It’s important for all of us to do what we can to better the lives of other people,” he said. “There’s a tangible cost to homelessness, and there is also an opportunity cost. Bringing families stability is what opens them up to generations of opportunity and following dreams instead of generations of poverty.”

Damien and Jenn exemplify Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar. Riversiders such as Damien and Jenn are working together everyday to not only address local issues, but to also have a positive impact on the region, nation, and the world.

To read the full article, click here.

Film Camp Offers Hope For Pediatric Cancer Patients

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Bettye Miller and published in UCR Today on March 12, 2015.)

Cassie Nguyen, a senior public policy major and brain cancer survivor, will introduce her Spotlight On Hope Film Camp to the community on April 2. Photo Credit: UCR Today
Cassie Nguyen, a senior public policy major and brain cancer survivor, will introduce her Spotlight On Hope Film Camp to the community on April 2. Photo Credit: UCR Today

Brain cancer. Not the diagnosis Cassie Nguyen was expecting as a sophomore at Riverside’s Martin Luther King High School. Neither was the debilitating surgery that saved her life.

Today, Nguyen is an honor student and School of Public Policy ambassador at the University of California, Riverside, where she will graduate in June. She is a 10-year cancer survivor, American Cancer Society advocate, and the creator of Spotlight On Hope Film Camp, a free film making program for pediatric cancer patients that until now has been held only in Los Angeles.

Nguyen hopes to bring the film camp to UC Riverside and the Inland Empire, and is screening short films written and produced by pediatric cancer patients in the program on Thursday, April 2, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. in Highlander Union Building 367. The event is free and open to the public. Parking is free in Lot 1; pick up parking permits at the Kiosk on West Campus Drive at the University Avenue entrance to the campus. Reservations are requested as seating is limited and may be made online. The screening is co-sponsored by University Honors and the Women’s Resource Center.

The Riverside resident said she hopes the screening will generate support to expand the program to the Inland Empire. She hopes eventually to establish a nonprofit foundation and offer film camps across the country.

Approximately 13,500 children are diagnosed with cancer each year in the U.S., and about 25 percent of them die, Nguyen said. Although Spotlight On Hope Film Camp does not reduce the death rate, it does provide a therapeutic outlet for pediatric cancer patients, she explained.

“I know how boring the hospital scene is,” Nguyen said, recalling the surgery to remove the tumor from her brain, a year of radiation and chemotherapy, and physical therapy to learn to write with her left hand and regain mobility to address on-going balance and difficult vision issues. “I wanted to do something to help kids take their minds off what was happening to them and give them something to look forward to.”

Nguyen suggested the film camp for young cancer patients while working as an intern for Think Ten Media Group, a production company based in Castaic that aims to use the power of media to create change and spread awareness of key issues.

She raised $700 to cover production costs of the first camp, held in September 2013, by selling plastic cancer bracelets to UCR faculty and students, family and friends in her junior year. She dedicated the first film camp to a younger cousin who died of sarcoma cancer at age 14.

Think Ten Media Group co-founders and filmmakers Ramon Hamilton and Jennifer Fischer helped Nguyen develop the Spotlight On Hope Film Camp for pediatric cancer patients at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles as part of their company’s arts education program. The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television hosts the camp in Los Angeles.

When the film camp proved to be successful, Nguyen applied for and won a $10,000 scholarship from the Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship Foundation in 2014, which funded 10 more film camps at UCLA. The foundation awards $10,000 scholarships to as many as 15 California college juniors annually to support public-service projects that the students carry out during their senior year.

Spotlight On Hope Film Camp allows patients to explore the art of green screen and special effects film-making while working in groups to create a short, green screen and special effects film. The participants, who range in age from 8 to 22, also learn about story/character development, camera technique, video and FX editing during three days of weekend classes.

“Being a pediatric patient myself, I understand how valuable a creative therapeutic outlet can be in the midst of your long, dreadful and difficult journey battling cancer,” Nguyen explained. “Spotlight On Hope Film Camp can help children live in a fantasy world that allows them to get away from all their troubles and create lasting memories.”

Nguyen efforts to put smiles on pediatric cancer patients faces is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar, she demonstrates that we’re a caring community that has compassion for all of its inhabitants, and engages with one another for a better life for all.

For the full article, click here.

Homeless Families To Benefit From 3rd Annual Fundraiser

(This article contains excerpts from www.thepathoflife.com and retrieved on March 2, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Path of Life Ministries
Photo Credit: Path of Life Ministries

Sheltering Hearts benefiting Path of Life Ministries will be holding it’s 3rd annual fundraising event on March 21, 2015.

Path of Life Ministries is a dynamic group of community-minded individuals serving our city since 1998. They’ve become a premier non-profit service agency committed to serving the greater Riverside homeless, challenged youth and family population with the goal to rescue, restore and rebuild lives in our community. One of their core guiding principles is grounded in partnering with the community. They accomplish this by extending their services with their local collaborative partners, other providers and support agencies. This contributes to a holistic, community based solution that improves the social, economic and spiritual health and vitality of the poor, homeless, at risk youth and families.

Path of Life Ministries addresses significant barriers of dysfunction with people in crisis including children and families. Families are met first at their place of largest need with food, shelter and stabilization services; the rescue point. Next, the process of restoring and rebuilding begins through compassionate case management, housing, health care services, community resources and wrap around services that are provided to promote self-sufficiency and family restoration.

Path of Life Ministries’ current capacity is 373 beds per night and serves the community in the areas of:

  • Homelessness – two Emergency Shelters and one Transitional Housing Program with supportive services through a comprehensive case management plan that sets goals to attain an independent life and prevent the cycle of homelessness
  • Recovery Services –  of people with alcohol/substance abuse or other dysfunctional behaviors that prevent self sufficiency in three Christian-based congregate living homes
  • Youth Services  – for challenged,  at-risk children and youth population
  • Health Care Services – ‘Health in Motion’, offered through our partner organization Health to Hope, provides mobile medical vehicle and two fixed sites that deliver primary care healthcare services to the homeless.

Path of Life Ministries is an outstanding example of Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar- people coming together for common goals and interests for the betterment of all.

To purchase your tickets or find out more information about the Sheltering Hearts event, click here.

For more information on Path of Life Ministries, contact their main office at (951) 275-8755 or visit their website.

Health Foundation Announces Clinic Expansion

(This article contains excerpts from the article published in The Press Enterprise on February 11, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Riverside Community Health Foundation

The Riverside Community Health Foundation announced this week that it is planning a $3.5 million expansion of its Eastside Health Center that will nearly double the number of patients that can be seen, a news release said.

The clinic on University Avenue in Riverside sees about 6,500 patients per year and is at maximum capacity. The expansion will increase annual patient visits to over 12,000.

With a convenient location, dedicated medical and dental staff, and partnership with the community, Eastside Health Center has and continues to have a huge impact on the City of Riverside residents.

The Eastside Health Center  stands as a core anchor of quality and low cost medical and dental care for the underserved and uninsured throughout Riverside’s eastside neighborhoods. These eastside neighborhoods have in the past been plagued by high crime and poverty rates; however, they have been the focal point of the city’s recent efforts of improvement and renovation. The renovation is an example of Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar.

The nonprofit foundation has purchased land directly across from the health clinic and plans to break ground on an expansion in late 2015, the news release said.

The foundation also provided more than $3 million in programs and grants in 2014 to organizations providing services to residents living in Riverside and Jurupa Valley.

Organizations that received funding included Loma Linda Children’s Hospital Foundation, Parkview Community Hospital, Riverside Community College District and the Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District.

The $3.5 million expansion of the Eastside Health Center is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s intelligent growth pillar. Riverside embraces economic growth and directs it so it maintains and improves our already outstanding quality of life. This includes growing the economy, raising the standard of living and managing a growing population.

For the complete article, click here.

UCR Launches Initiative To Deal With Inland Poverty

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Fielding Buck and published in The Press Enterprise on February 10, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Carrie Rosema
Photo Credit: Carrie Rosema

A strategy to study, teach about and deal with Inland poverty was announced Tuesday at UC Riverside.

The UCR School of Public Policy will launch the Blum Initiative on Global and Regional Poverty this fall.

The announcement was made during an appearance by former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who was on campus to talk to public policy students and attend the screening of a documentary about him.

Reich praised Riverside as a “roll-up-your-sleeves” kind of community and UCR as a school that provides opportunities for students with financial needs. Exemplifying Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar, Riverside and UCR both demonstrate that we’re a caring community that has compassion for all of its inhabitants, and engages with one another for a better life for all.

“There’s probably no place that I know of that better exemplifies what higher education ought to be doing,” Reich said.

Reich is a senior fellow of the Blum Center for Developing Economies at UC Berkeley, which is working with UCR on the intiative.

Richard Blum, Photo Credit: UCR Today
Richard Blum, Photo Credit: UCR Today

It was launched by a gift of $250,000 from the center’s founder, UC regent Richard C. Blum, who is married to Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

UCR chancellor Kim A. Wilcox and UC President Janet Napolitano both matched the gift out of their budgets, according to a UCR press release.

The initiative will be interdisciplinary and results oriented, according to Anil Deolalikar, founding dean of the school. It will include partnerships with local non-governmental organizations.

“Poverty is not unique, right?” he said in an interview before the announcement. “Every place in the work has poverty and there are many places in the world that have tackled the problem of poverty with good results. We will be trying to glean lessons from around the world so that we can use some of those lessons to solve poverty problems here in the Inland Empire.”

Plans include to establish an undergraduate minor in poverty and a focus area in public policy master degree program.

For the complete article, click here.

Providing Leadership Training for High School Girls

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sean Nealon and published in UCR Today on January 27, 2015.)

About 150 high school girls from the Riverside Unified School District will learn about leadership and the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at a Feb. 5 event led by a University of California, Riverside educator.

The event, billed “Inspire Your Mind,” is being led by Pamela Clute, who has been a mathematics educator for more than 40 years and is currently special assistant to the chancellor at UC Riverside. It will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Bourns, Inc. in Riverside.

Pamela Clute, special assistant to the chancellor. Photo Credit: UCR Today
Pamela Clute, special assistant to the chancellor. Photo Credit: UCR Today

The girls, who are sophomores, were selected by their mathematics and science teachers. Their teachers and parents, as well as members of the media are also invited to attend.

The Inspire Your Mind program aims to inspire and motivate students to pursue and stay engaged in STEM subjects in high school, a time when girls often lose interest in those fields. The ultimate goal is to develop the next generation of female thinkers and doers through meaningful interaction with role models and mentors.

“There are many great STEM things happening in the Inland Empire for elementary and middle school students,” Clute said. “Strengthening STEM experiences for high schools girls will be a welcome addition.”

RUSD, Athena of Riverside and Bourns, Inc. are collaborating on the program, which will emphasize person and professional success and leadership development.

At the event, the girls will receive a “pep talk” from Clute, hear from a panel of women in STEM fields and take part in hands-on, science fair type activities that relate to STEM fields. The UCR Science Ambassadors, a group of undergraduate students in the university’s College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, will help with the activities.

Lynn Carmen Day, RUSD’s chief academic officer, said she is excited about how the program can expose young women to the possibilities available to them in the sciences. Programs like this exemplify Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar, by bringing people together around a common interest of inspiring young girls to become leaders in STEM fields.

“RUSD believes in a strong district wide STEM program for all students,” she said. “‘Inspire Your Mind’ provides young high school women the unique opportunity to engage in a deeper focus on post-secondary and career pathways for females in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.”

To read the full article, click here.

UCR Program Aims To Close Racial Gap In Science Education

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sandra Stokley and published in The Press Enterprise on February 1, 2015.)

Photo Credit: David Bauman, The Press Enterprise
Photo Credit: David Bauman, The Press Enterprise

On a recent sun-drenched Saturday morning – when most teenagers were playing sports, hanging with friends at the mall or sleeping in – a group of Inland middle school students sat in a UC Riverside classroom pondering the concept of spatial relationships.

Under the tutelage of retired aerospace engineer Michael Batie, they used graph paper, scissors and glue sticks to construct 3-D models to help them visualize how objects relate to each other in space.

They are the first students in the 10-week pilot University STEM Academy that offers instruction and mentoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to sixth- through ninth-graders. The goal is to boost interest in those subjects and improve academic achievement. The program is aimed at, but not limited to, African-American students.

Programs like the University STEM Academy are great examples for Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar. Riversiders collaborate and work together to build our community and accelerate the common good for all.  We are a caring community that has great compassion and engages with one another for a better life for all.

“We need this type of program for all kids, but particularly for black kids,” said Carolyn Murray, UC Riverside psychology professor and executive director of the academy.

One floor up from the classroom, the students’ parents listened closely and took copious notes as Ann Smith Hickman explained the importance of familiarizing themselves with their child’s cumulative record, which follows students from elementary school through high school graduation.

Parent participation was a requirement for students to enroll in the academy.

Riverside County Office of Education data shows that African-American students lag behind their white and Latino peers in math and science, are less likely to graduate and more likely to drop out of school, Murray said.

The academy is the outgrowth of a dialogue by Inland community activists, educators and clergy on how to address that racial achievement gap, Murray said.

The academy was launched in September with seed funding from UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox and money Murray raised at a Shrimp and Grits Champagne Brunch.

Students meet for six hours on every other Saturday from early October through mid-March.

To read the full article, click here.