Dominican Students Sworn-In As Civic Action Fellows

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Isa Ferris ’24, a first-year student from San Anselmo, came to Dominican to major in International Studies and run on the Penguins’ cross country team, but the biggest attraction was becoming a Civic Action Fellow with an opportunity to make a difference in the community.

“I was drawn to Dominican because of the strong Service-Learning program and community outreach focus,” Isa says. “I felt like only at Dominican could I continue a high level of community involvement while also being a full-time student.”

Last October, Isa was one of 14 Dominican students sworn-in as Civic Action Fellows during a virtual Civic Action Fellowship Ceremony. The event, hosted by California Volunteers, Office of the Governor, celebrates the new statewide higher education AmeriCorps program that helps students pay for school while promoting civic action. Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday hosted the ceremony. Dr. Mojgan Behmand, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dean of The Dominican Experience, represented Dominican.

In a ceremony at the State Capitol in February, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the State of California and a coalition of eight public and independent universities — led by Dominican and President Mary Marcy (pictured) —launched this statewide program that draws on public service as a way to help pay for college.

The Civic Action Fellowship program integrates service and academic work with a focus on career preparation and community engagement. The Fellowship is modeled after Reimagining Citizenship, an initiative that began in 2018 launching a partnership between Dominican and the City of Novato while California Volunteers CEO Josh Fryday was serving as the city’s mayor.


California Volunteers is the state office that addresses state and community challenges by using public, private, and nonprofit resources including AmeriCorps and community partnerships. For the Civic Action Fellowship, each partner university is designing its own program within the California Volunteers model. Dominican awards each first-year Fellow up to $100,000 in scholarship support over four years. The service commitment is embedded in a framework of curriculum that enhances the fellows’ civic learning and deepens engagement while receiving credit. All Dominican Fellows also will receive a $1,600 AmeriCorps education award after completing one semester of service.

Isa, for one, says the fellowship allowed her to enroll at Dominican. But that was not the only incentive.

“The Civic Action Fellowship was enticing to me because it involved loads of community service with a partner that best suits your interests,” Isa says. “I am lucky enough to continue my work with Canal Alliance, an organization I worked with throughout my high school years.”

At Canal Alliance, Isa is serving as a teacher’s aide this semester. She assists the teacher in the classroom in whatever she needs, whether it be helping to explain an activity or working one-on-one with a student.

Furthermore, Isa has taken on more responsibilities. It’s been a rewarding experience.

“I started working as a Canal Alliance Conversation partner, in which I tutor two beginner English students once a week. Though online community service is no substitute for in-person interactions, I still feel I've been able to connect with students and staff,” Isa says “The ESL students never cease to amaze me. Their energy and grit are uncanny, given that the class runs until 10 o’clock at night. They've completed a full day of work, put food on the table for dinner, and then arrive at class ready to rock. Their work ethic is unlike no other.”

Isa, who would like to utilize her International Studies degree to work in a Spanish-speaking country, feels she is in the right place at the right time, particularly today.

“Being `sworn-in’ as a Civic Action Fellow means that I’m representing not only Dominican, but AmeriCorps as well when working with my community partner,” she says. “I intend to utilize this opportunity to stay connected with Canal Alliance and aid them as best as possible.”


Read what several other Civic Action Fellows at Dominican have to say about their Civic Action Fellowship experience thus far:

  • Noah Pascual ‘24, a first-year student from San Francisco majoring in Political Science, is adjusting to his role at SPAHR LBGTQ Youth Group, his Civic Action Fellow's assignment. He is honored to participate. “I was inspired to be a Civic Action Fellow because I felt that helping others in the local community would be really beneficial for me. Learning to foster change in an environment that’s new to me is exciting,” Noah says. “At first, I was unsure if I had the proper experience or skills. But I’m happy I took the chance. It showed me that it’s never too late to make a change in your community.”
  • Oswaldo Calderon ‘24, a first-year student from Chula Vista majoring in Business, is a Penguins’ soccer player whose Civic Action Fellows’ partner site is at Canal Alliance in workforce development. He is inspired assisting and guiding hard-working people in the process of acquiring their construction license. He was also inspired by AmeriCorps’ motto and goals. “I wanted to be a part of a program that truly worked to make a change in the community,” he says “Being a part of this organization is truly honorable and a big responsibility. I plan to use this achievement to grow as a person and help as many people as I can. I hope to use my skills that I’ve learned and the experience to be able to make a change in our community in the future.”
  • Alyssa De Casas ‘21, a Biological Sciences major from Windsor, wants to give back to her hometown for the way the community has supported her and her success. Her fellowship role is in the Canal Alliance’s University Prep where she is supporting fourth through sixth graders with their distance learning and homework, specifically in STEM classes. Alyssa, who plans to enter a Master’s program for genetic counseling after graduating from Dominican, is honored to be a Civic Action Fellow. “I am becoming a part of something amazing and I am taking on great responsibility to help communities,” Alyssa says. “I plan on finding a way to incorporate everything I've learned from the Civic Action Fellowship into my career.  I plan to continue trying to find new ways to help and better my community." 

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