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UCLA Magazine Summer 2004
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Of the Community, By the Community, For the Community
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Summer 2004
Of the Community, By the Community,
For the Community
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A Mentor
With Community Partnership Grants, UCLA extends its tradition of forging creative ties with greater Los Angeles to address significant problems and issues

Photography by Jonah Light

Engaging with the community is no small task when that "community" is spread across 4,000 square miles, comprises nearly 10 million residents, is among the most culturally diverse in the nation and ranks as the 11th largest economy in the world. So when UCLA's Center for Community Partnerships set out to develop a vehicle for community engagement, director Franklin D. Gilliam Jr. knew the Los Angeles area was fertile ground for a model program of enrichment and solutions-oriented collaboration.

UCLA in LA, the center's operational arm, has forged innovative and fruitful relationships between the university and nearly 100 community-based organizations in the greater Los Angeles area since its inception in September of 2002. An essential component of UCLA in LA is its Community Partnership Grants program, funded with a $2-million grant from the UCLA Foundation. Each year, the center awards between $800,000 and $1 million in grants to campus and nonprofit organizations that focus on children, youth and families; economic development; or arts and culture. It's important to note, however, that the grants program is just one aspect of the center's efforts. Other activities focus on fostering a campus culture that values community engagement, convening community leaders to discuss current issues facing greater Los Angeles residents and applying UCLA's mission of research, teaching and service to issues of community interest.

Sustainability is the key to the partnerships established through the grants program. "Our goal is to avoid drive-by research and instead look for opportunities to provide long-term engagement," says Gilliam, a professor of political science. "This is the only way to truly address the needs and issues facing our community today. We're not about quick fixes. We are about nurturing and sustaining."

As in any partnership, UCLA collaborators — whether faculty, graduate students or staff — thrive just as much as their community partners. While nonprofit organizations benefit from the academic resources of the university, the campus partners are able to see firsthand how their research and service enhance the quality of life for area residents. Here, writers Susan Chapman M.F.A. '01, Pamela Corante and Phil Hampton look at how some of these projects illustrate Gilliam's vision of community engagement in action.

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