Civic Action Fellowship Program Draws First-Year Students

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This fall, 17 students will work with community partners throughout Marin County as Dominican University of California begins the second year of the innovative Civic Action Fellowship (CAF) program. The CAF program builds students’ capacity to understand social issues and challenges that create barriers to equity in California, while they cultivate community engagement skills; build relationships with local organizations, develop professional networks and experience in public service.  Each fellow is awarded a scholarship and an educational award that makes college more financially accessible, which draws on public service as a way for students to build their resume and earn funds to assist with college.

Developed in partnership with California Volunteers (Office of the Governor) and AmeriCorps, CAF integrates service and academic work with a focus on career preparation and community engagement. Through Dominican’s Service-Learning program and Center for Community Engagement, CAF students are simultaneously engaged in service projects while developing skills for careers, graduate school, and a life of civic engagement.

Central to the CAF program is a California for All class that brings the cohort together to gain knowledge and context regarding the social issues they are engaging with plus a 10-unit service internship with a community partner, focused on education, economic opportunity, and healthy futures.

Meet some students from Marin County high schools who have come to Dominican to study as Civic Action Fellows.

Kaith Monterroso ’25, Nursing
Marin Catholic High School

Kaith knew that she wanted to study nursing early in her high school career after gaining first-hand insight into the profession through placements with both MarinHealth Medical Network and Kaiser Permanente.

Subsequent internships with two Marin-based nonprofit agencies – 10,000 Degrees and E3: Education, Excellence, and Equity – nurtured Kaith’s interest in community service.

As a senior, Kaith organized a fundraiser through her school’s Multicultural Club to help provide fellow residents in the Canal district with essentials during the pandemic. 

"Growing up in Canal where I received support from my neighbors has inspired me to give back to help the community overcome certain obstacles,” Kaith says.

Dominican has been long recognized for excellence in nursing education. However, it was the CAF program that led Kaith to the University in order to expand her understanding of how to contribute to issues of social justice and combine this with her future career in health care.

“Coming from a low-income area means not being able to afford prime medical support. Some people
do not have an advocate who is in the medical field,” Kaith says. “I wanted to be part of that change.”

Sizi Rios ‘25, Global Public Health
San Rafael High School

For Sizi, an incoming Global Public Health major, CAF is a way for her to ultimately gain better access to valuable information that could benefit the health and well-being of her fellow residents in the Canal district.

“It’s helping my community, which is my number one goal, and learning how to go on and reach other communities. That’s what I want from the fellowship. A connection to help others,” Sizi says. “If I can be a part of this, I might be able to make a dramatic change in my community by having parents and kids there see that someone from their own community is going to be there to help them and listen and knows their struggle.”

Sizi aims to combine her interest in technology with her desire to be a health administrator or consultant who can provide a better way for low-income and underrepresented communities to access information on the medical insurance process and gain a better understanding of free and affordable health care.

In high school, Sizi one summer attended Girls Who Code, a seven-week program located at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco to learn how to code different programming languages. At Dominican, she is considering adding coding and software design as a minor.

“The fellowship is about giving and helping the community and that’s what I want to do. In my career that’s what I see myself doing a few years from now,” Sizi says. “This is a great way for me to begin that journey and begin exploring and to begin giving as much help and hope as I can.”

Jessica Velasquez ’25, Psychology
San Rafael High School

Jessica was accepted at both the University of San Francisco and CSU Bakersfield but selected nearby Dominican in part because of CAF.

“My goal with the program is to help my people who need help in new technologies, understanding the language and helping them fill out important papers that they don’t understand,” says Jessica, a Psychology major.

“My career ambition once I graduate from Dominican is to help out the community and make positive change in their lives.”

Mari Johnson-Andres ’25, Psychology
North Bay Christian Academy 

The pandemic influenced Mari’s decision to stay closer to home to attend college, and the CAF program offered her an opportunity to work in the community, similar to the experience she had in high school with Project Reach.

Ideally, Mari would like her CAF experience to align with her career path as a psychology major. When she attended Novato High School and North Bay Christian Academy she excelled in her psychology classes.

“When I was younger, I was really into finding out why people do what they do,” says Mari, who is interested in pursuing a career in criminal psychology or forensic psychology. “That became a passion of mine – understanding the `why’ of everything.”

Above photo features Kaith Monterroso (left) and Sizi Rios

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