CSULB connects students to the Long Beach community
Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 21:11
Nine-year-old Jonas Corona said he was tired of not being able to give back to the community at such a young age, getting turned down by organizations who require volunteers to be 10 years or older. So he started his own organization, Love in the Mirror, when he was just six years old.
Love in the Mirror aims to help homeless youth and their families by organizing drives and handing out toiletries on Skid Row, a common homeless gathering place in Los Angeles. Love in the Mirror was just one of the local organizations presenting its cause at the This is Your City event yesterday, which took place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Associated Students Inc. Community Service Commissioner Asmita Deswal organized the event, which was held to get Cal State Long Beach students involved in local community services, such as Meals on Wheels, Join the KOZ, The Center Long Beach, Be the Match and Love in the Mirror.
“I feel … happy to see their smiles when they get food,” Jonas said about serving homeless groups in Los Angeles. “They can be very grateful.”
Jonas, who started participating in volunteer service when he was four, said that some may think that helping the community can be hard, but he still encourages children and adults alike to donate their time. Renee Corona, Jonas’s mom, said that Jonas has started a program called GIVE Youth Empowerment Workshop that reaches out to kids who are 5 to 15 years old, letting them understand how easy it can be to donate time to the community.
“A lot of people think it’s hard,” Jonas said. “You can just help [the community.] It could be very easy.”
Accounting senior Scott Vicario, who was looking for future employment opportunities, said that he knows some homeless individuals.
“[Being homeless] hits close to home for me,” he said. “I’ve realized it could happen so quickly.”
Two brothers and CSULB alumni, Ramy and Karim Habashi, started Join the Koz, another organization featured at the event. Both brothers graduated last year with degrees in biology, and Ramy Habashi is now working on his teaching credentials at CSULB. Their group, which has cancer-diagnosed children draw and design shirts that will be sold to raise money for cancer research and the child’s family, just started last March.
“The biggest thing right now is raising awareness,” Ramy Habashi said. “We are looking for volunteers and awareness.”
The organization was inspired by their cousin, who was diagnosed with a type of bone cancer called osteosarcoma, when she was 13 years old. Now that she is 21, the brothers said that she has recovered after treatment, even with a brief relapse when she was 15.
Ramy Habashi said that once enough funds are raised and the logistics of producing shirts are figured out, those who wish to offer their time can help children create the shirts.
“When kids are in the hospital, they have a lot of downtime,” he said. “We want to do something that makes them happy.”
Other organizations at the event included The Center Long Beach, which is a 35-year-old organization that serves as the central core of the Long Beach Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities.
“There’s a lot of negative stigma with being a gay youth,” youth program manager for The Center, Kyle Bullock, said. “We provide social activism … advocating for the inclusion of all.”
Vicario said that helping out the community could help students get out of the pop culture mindset that distracts them from current events.
“It helps students get back into reality,” he said. “This is what happens, this is life. We are smart enough to battle that.”
Other than opening up perspectives, helping out the community can also add to students’ college careers, Deswal said.
“Just going to school and going home isn’t going to help,” she said. “It will give them perspectives on what’s outside the classroom.”
Students can find more information about the organizations at the event, which will take place again today near the Speaker’s Platform from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.