Community Impact

UCR Builds Bridges to Inland Empire

By Sandra Baltazar Martínez

Watching a child’s face brighten because she’s made progress in math or reading is what made Diane Escolero ’16 proud of her work with UC Riverside’s University Eastside Community Collaborative (UECC), a federal grant program funded by AmeriCorps in partnership with the city of Riverside and Riverside Unified School District.

UECC reaches more than 900 youth in Riverside’s low-income Eastside neighborhood, more than 400 of whom increased their academic proficiency in literacy and/or math to meet grade-level standards or higher through in-class tutoring or after-school programs.

Diane Escolero

The program solidified Escolero’s love for education and made her realize she wanted to become a math teacher. This summer, Escolero started a master’s in education program at UCLA, with an emphasis on social justice.

“UECC helped me open my eyes and see what my goal would be,” said Escolero, 23. “I don’t think I would have gone into this program had it not been for UECC. I grew up in Temecula, in a sort of bubble, and I never knew education could look so different for other kids.”

For the past two years, Escolero devoted 900 hours to tutoring and mentoring students at University Heights Middle School through UECC. Her community service hours are only a small fraction of those provided by UCR students, staff, and faculty, which primarily impact Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The work has not gone unnoticed. For the past seven years, Washington Monthly magazine has ranked UC Riverside among the top 25 universities in its College Ranking Survey based on recruiting and graduating low-income students, research, and community service.

During the 2016–17 school year, more than 18,700 UCR students participated in 405 community-based programs, totaling more than 57,000 hours of service including tutoring, conferences, and year-round initiatives.

“Our university bears a responsibility to engage with its communities — in doing so, we advance our teaching, research, and public service efforts while also improving the social and economic prosperity of the region, state, and nation,” said Elizabeth Romero, UCR’s assistant vice chancellor for government and community relations.

UCR’s work benefiting Inland Empire communities — extending to the eastern part of Coachella Valley — comes through a number of other channels and includes student groups at the Bourns College of Engineering and Chicano Student Programs, to name a few.

Bourns Engineering Day on April 29th.

UCR in Our Neighborhood

Bourns College of Engineering

The Bourns College of Engineering registered nearly 34,200 community service hours during the 2015–16 school year. The school’s students are passionate about promoting events such as the annual Bourns Engineering Day, an all-day event that brings families to campus. More than 1,200 participants showed up to the most recent event in April, which was planned with the help of 180 volunteers.

“Community engagement is a critical part of the college’s mission to advance engineering education,” said Jun Wang, Bourns’ assistant dean for strategic and international initiatives. “Student organizers are immersed in a collaborative work environment with their peers, industry leaders, and the community to prepare them for a successful career in a professional setting.”

UCR Advocacy Network

UCR has advocates nationwide — and beyond. At least 40,000 are registered advocates through the UC Advocacy Network (UCAN). Their support involves making calls or writing letters to legislators, as well as joining advocacy efforts through social media. For more information, visit or contact Jacquelyn I. González, UCR’S associate director of governmental and community relations, at You can also visit:

Educational Impact

UECC was launched in 1994, and 80 UCR students participate in the program every year. Over the past six years, students have provided more than 220,000 service hours to the city and school district, according to Christine Morgando, UECC’s program manager. It’s not uncommon for UECC tutors to work with a group of 100 elementary school children who need extra support in order to be moved into a proficient academic range. “I love my tutors,” said Debbie Newton, a site supervisor at Beatty Elementary School who works with UECC mentors. “I don’t know how we would survive without them. Our students love them. They are great ambassadors for the college for our students.” Escolero said the 900 hours of hands-on experience also taught her a lot about how to overcome challenges. “One student gave me attitude at the beginning, but things changed, and the little girl would come up to me to ask questions,” Escolero said. “Maybe it was because she knew I was there to help. I persisted, and she knew I really cared.”

Sofia Natalia Vizcarra Escobedo ’17, Carol Park, and Sullivan McNair, 10, after Sullivan received his yellow belt at Bryant Elementary School in Riverside. Photo by Sandra Baltazar Martínez.

Activity-Based Learning

Some UCR students, staff, and faculty members find other ways to volunteer within their communities in their free time. Among them is Carol Park, a researcher at the Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies. Park, an award-winning black-belt karate instructor and competitor, spends at least 75 minutes a week during the school year teaching free karate courses at Bryant Elementary School’s after-school program, Helping Elementary Achievers Reach the Stars, in Riverside. Sofia Natalia Vizcarra Escobedo ’17, a UCR biology student and black-belt karate competitor, also showed up often to help. Catherine McNair, whose 10-year-old son Sullivan recently tested for his yellow belt, appreciated the effort Park and Escobedo made to expose her son to karate — at no cost. “They are really dedicated,” she said. Seventy-three percent of Bryant Elementary’s students come from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, so the free karate courses are a huge help, said Lari Nelson, the school’s principal. “It’s great exposure to other cultures and experiences (students) might not have had,” Nelson said. Park, who’s also a licensed USA Karate Federation referee, said it’s important for children to have these types of extracurricular opportunities. “UCR is a wonderful place to work because it allows us to grow as individuals and allows us to use our expertise to give back to the community,” she said.

Growing the Economy

UCR, along with its Inland Empire partners, is working to redefine what it means to be a student-centric, public research university that is responsive to both individual and societal needs, according to Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox. The university’s reach is measureable. Whether it’s through community service or the financial impact it has on the region, UCR is doing its part to support the Inland Empire.

For the 2015–16 fiscal year, UCR’s economic presence — meaning its labor and nonlabor expenditures — was significant:

  • Total economic impact: $2.7 billion
  • Total economic impact in the Inland Empire: $1.35 billion
  • Total economic impact for the state of California: $1.92 billion
  • UCR supports 25,000 jobs nationwide

SOURCE: HR&A Advisors, Inc.