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Lifting Up Communities

New CSUF Center Promotes Healthy Families
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C. Jessie Jones envisions the new CSUF Center for Healthy Neighborhoods as a way to help families in need break the cycle of poverty.

Jones is the driving force behind the center, situated in a low-income, predominantly Latino area near campus. Located in the Richman Neighborhood Center, the CSUF center was developed in partnership with the city of Fullerton.

The center aims to help alleviate education and health disparities in underserved and vulnerable neighborhoods, said Jones, professor of health science and interim dean of the College of Health and Human Development.

Culturally appropriate programs and services that promote education, health and resilience among children and families will be offered by CSUF faculty and students. These include health screenings, mental health services, youth and family programs, case management and resource referrals, offered for free or at a reduced cost.

“In order to help families and children out of poverty, we have to help them to be resilient in the face of all their challenges and provide a path to college for the children,” said Jones, who becomes CSUF’s assistant vice president for academic and community partnerships in January.

Jones’ vision is to work with the St. Jude Neighborhood Health Center and Pathways of Hope, which assists the homeless, located adjacent to the CSUF center, to create a campus-like feeling to provide comprehensive services. To bring such programs and services to other low-income neighborhoods, the center also will serve as a hub to work with other community stakeholders in the area and throughout Orange County.

Jones will serve as the center’s director of university and community partnerships, and Beverly Quaye, assistant professor of nursing, will serve as the center’s director of operations. Faculty, primarily from the College of Health and Human Development, will direct and mentor CSUF students — from across disciplines and colleges — working at the center.

“Participating students will expand their knowledge in a high-impact, experiential learning environment, while contributing to the health and well being of our local neighborhoods in greatest need,” said Jones.

Healthy Programs and Services

In November, the center started the Resilient Families Program to provide prevention and intervention services to strengthen resilience in the entire family.

Parents are participating in workshops on such topics as stress management and positive child development, while their children, ages 3 to 5, take part in sessions designed specially for them. Leading the inaugural program are Kate Bono, chair and associate professor of child and adolescent studies, and Melanie Horn Mallers, associate professor of human services, along with their students.

Other planned programs include partnering with St. Jude Neighborhood Health Center, in which a licensed therapist supervises University students in offering culturally appropriate mental health services. The Community Nurse Care Navigation program slated for next year will provide health assessments, health promotion/management and fitness activities.

Programs to assist at-risk teenagers to help reduce high school dropout rates and increase college-readiness also are on the horizon. To support all of these efforts, Jones and faculty members are seeking external funding from various sources.

“This major initiative is an opportunity for Cal State Fullerton to invest in the well being of our neighbors,” said Jones. “It promotes civic and community engagement for students, and helps them better understand that there are major education and health disparities around Orange County.

“Most importantly, I want our students, no matter their backgrounds, to be engaged in their communities, to care about being good citizens — and to help lift their communities out of poverty.”