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Students Helping To Clear City Backlogs Under San Marcos Partnership

Jennie Bennett volunteers in the kitchen at the San Marcos Senior Activity Ce...

Photo by Megan Burks

Above: Jennie Bennett volunteers in the kitchen at the San Marcos Senior Activity Center, June 25, 2018.

Cal State San Marcos students are helping the city of San Marcos knock out a backlog of projects while getting their hands dirty with real-world problems.

Through a program called Democracy in Action, students majoring in human development spent last semester auditing the San Marcos Senior Activity Center’s volunteer program.

“We came one day just to do research, my team and I, so we were interviewing the nutrition specialist, and she said, ‘Wash your hands. Get the gloves on. It’s time to go,’” said graduate Daniele Admendares. “So we jumped in and started doing some lunch service.”

After stepping into the shoes of volunteers, they set the center up with a new online application, recruitment packet and software to track volunteer hours.

“I was very impressed,” said the senior center’s recreation supervisor, Andrea Gonzalez. “We didn’t have to tweak it hardly at all. It was really high quality, professional work that we received.”

Admendares graduated with plans to become a caseworker for children with developmental disabilities. She said she’s more likely to work with seniors in the future.

“This helped me tap into a community that I didn’t really know needed us,” Admendares said. “So that’s what the Democracy in Action project really looks to do — to bridge student skills and creativity and resources with the city’s needs on various projects.”

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During the 18-month pilot project, the city contacted the school’s Division of Community Engagement with issues it needed help tackling. Based on the issue, staff connected the city with students in related classes.

Students have conducted a parking study, developed market materials for the city, and looked into emergency medical services, stormwater and how the city serves entrepreneurs.

The university plans to assess the pilot program’s outcomes next school year, but Director of Civic Learning Elizabeth Matthews said, anecdotally, students who participate are more interested in public-sector jobs.

“They’re seeing that this is their community and they can change something,” she said.

Cal State San Marcos students are helping the city of San Marcos knock out a backlog of projects while getting their hands dirty with real-world problems.

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