Sac State Torchlight

Scholarship helps encourage student community service

As the director of Sac State’s Asian American Studies program, Professor Tim Fong regularly engaged with the local community. And during his Alliver Varzos is one of the recipients of a community leadership scholarship.interactions, he listened.

“There was some discussion among community leaders about ‘giving back,’ and one way that was discussed was starting a scholarship,” he said. “So I created a scholarship that’s intended to encourage students to become involved with community service.”

The scholarship is designed to motivate students to serve their greater community. For the last decade, the program has awarded three to five $1,000 scholarships annually.

“Obviously the support helps in terms of students’ financial ability to stay in school, but it’s also the recognition of their community service,” Fong says.

That support can even kindle student interest in public service so that it carries into their career plans. “It means opening doors that may not otherwise be open,” says Greg Mark, professor of ethnic studies. “It’s not just the funding. It’s the contacts. It’s the networking. It’s the validation of what they’ve done in terms of leadership.”

Mark says that validation plus the inherent feeling of achievement that comes from performing community service boosts students’ confidence and motivates them to advance as the next generation of leaders.

“These students have the potential to become leaders after graduation,” Mark says. 

Senior Alliver Varzos already practices that leadership. The marketing major was encouraged by Mark to apply for the scholarship after his involvement in the 65th Street Corridor Community Collaborative Project. The service-learning program mobilizes Sac State students to create educational pathways for underserved middle and high school students.

“We act as a bridge to higher education, because these students aren’t in an environment where they see college as an option,” Varzos says.

Through his scholarship recognition and involvement in the Ethnic Studies Department, Varzos decided to pursue graduate school in hopes of becoming a professor. As a teaching assistant for Mark, Varzos was even offered the opportunity to teach his own class as a learning community instructor with the Educational Opportunity Program.

 “I felt empowered,” he says. “Me, an undergraduate, teaching a class. Who does that?”

Students’ service opportunities and achievements will expand thanks to increased funding. Fong says the scholarship was not immune to the budget crisis but has regained momentum through a recent gift from the Wing and Chee Fat Fund through the Sacramento Region Community Foundation.

“Gifts help us achieve a stable source of funding,” Fong says. “For the past few years it was very tough to raise money with the downturned economy, so having a consistent source of scholarship funding is really key.”