California Begins Service Program for College Students

Of the hundreds of laws signed and initiatives overseen by Gov. Gavin Newsom while in office, a new state program is the one that he’s “probably more proud” of than anything else.

The California College Corps, a state program that began this year, selects low-income college students to complete community service in exchange for $10,000 to spend on tuition and living expenses. The aim is to help students reduce their debt, while empowering civic action and addressing problems in the state, including education gaps, food insecurity and climate change.

“Instead of working at a restaurant or a cafe, now you’re going to have the chance to tutor, mentor, take climate action, go to food banks and do other important work,” California’s chief service officer, Josh Fryday, told me. “We really think this is an exciting and unique model, and it’s a model that we hope gets emulated by other states and around the country.”

The four-year program is funded by approximately $300 million in state money, and about 13,000 students are expected to enroll through 2026.

To select the first class of students this fall, the state partnered with 46 California college campuses, including U.C. Berkeley, Fresno City College and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, for help in choosing students who could most benefit. The inaugural class of 3,200 was sworn in at a ceremony in Sacramento in October.

Over the course of the academic year, the students will serve 450 hours, which is about 15 hours a week. Half of the fellows are spending that time tutoring and mentoring in low-income schools in an effort to address the state’s Covid-driven learning loss, Fryday said. Others are building community gardens, planting trees, working at food banks or participating in other local community-service projects identified by their colleges.

The program’s first class includes more than 500 California Dream Act students, who came to the U.S. as undocumented immigrants but otherwise qualify for in-state tuition in California. Typically, undocumented students can’t participate in national service programs because federal rules prohibit them from receiving funding.

“It’s one of the aspects of the program that we’re most proud of,” Fryday told me. The class is also mostly composed of first-generation college students, and more than 80 percent are people of color.

Newsom said he hoped community service work would help the college students discover their purpose, “their North Star” that would guide them through their professional and personal lives.

“Honestly there’s nothing that enlivens me more than the fact that you’re on your journey to figure it out,” he said at the swearing-in ceremony.

The origins of a mysterious painting in Joan Didion’s house have finally been revealed.

For $950,000: A Craftsman-style cottage in Los Angeles, a three-bedroom apartment in San Francisco and a midcentury ranch in Novato.

Garlicky mashed potato cake.

Today’s tip comes from Adele Ohs, who recommends Capitol Park in Sacramento:

“I love Capitol Park, the square mile surrounding the State Capitol building. It is a lovely oasis marking the seat of our state government. In it are walks through ancient trees gifted to the state from many countries around the world; granite memorials to the war dead as well as to firefighters and peace officers who have lost their lives protecting citizens of this state; and benches on which to savor the beauty of California’s temperate weather. The Peace Rose Garden is one of the loveliest in the state and on sunny days, you will often see wedding parties being photographed there. School buses ring the streets around the park in the spring as children from all over the state come to watch our government in action and sprawl on the lawns with sack lunches. The grounds are a state park, so the security is provided by the California Highway Patrol on horseback; it’s a common sight to see mounted officers speaking to interested onlookers or simply standing with their mounts at attention.”

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On a stormy evening in San Francisco, Monica Gomez and Lucas Moore saw a surfboard floating off Ocean Beach. Then they saw a body facedown beside it.

The couple sprinted toward the water, and asked a bystander — Griffin De Luce — to call 911. Together, the three people dragged the unconscious surfer onto the shore and began CPR. The man’s body was cold, his lips blue and his eyes staring blankly.

But then he inhaled a ragged breath and coughed up salt water. He was alive.

When the surfer was later released from the hospital, he reunited with the people who helped rescue him, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. “I’m so grateful to be alive,” the surfer, a 56-year-old father of two, said. “It just gave me such an appreciation of life and happiness. I wake up every morning and go to bed happy.” (The Chronicle did not name the surfer at his request.)

The four people all met on Dec. 10 at a bakery in Larkspur. They described it as a surreal, overwhelming and emotional experience, with tears and hugs. They’re planning to go on a hike together in the East Bay next year.

“We’re all connected, friends for life,” De Luce said.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Briana Scalia and Allison Honors contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at

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