California helps college students cut their debt by paying them to help their communities

Gail Cornwall, The Hechinger Report, April 5, 2023

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DAVIS, Calif. – Only streetlights cut the darkness as University of California, Davis student Malik Vega-Tatum climbed into his car on a Wednesday morning in January. After arriving at La Tourangelle Community Garden in Woodland 20 minutes later, he got right to work, using a hoe to tend frost-kissed rows.

Since the school year began, Vega-Tatum has given hundreds of hours of his time to Yolo Farm to Fork, a nonprofit that supports school gardens and farm-based education. In exchange, he will receive $700 a month for 10 months from the #CaliforniansForAll College Corps program, class credit and experience with food production science. When he reaches the 450-hour mark, he’ll get a $3,000 award. He’ll graduate with $10,000 less debt and with work experience he hopes will give him an edge when he applies to medical school next year.

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