Ethnic Studies Professor Gregory Yee Mark is a fifth-generation Chinese American who specializes in preventing youth violence. He’s also committed to providing at-risk kids a chance to go to college.
A national pioneer in service learning, Mark created the 65th Street Corridor Community Collaboration Project nine years ago when he came to Sacramento State after receiving a $1 million federal grant to study youth violence.
The project targets grades 7-12 in Sacramento’s 65th Street Corridor, an economically disadvantaged and diverse community extending from Elvas to Broadway, adjacent to the campus. Sac State faculty and students have been making a difference in the lives of these kids for nearly a decade.
Working with parents, teachers and school administrators, Mark's project places about 100 students each year at Will C. Wood Middle School and Hiram Johnson High School and serves more than 2,000 community members.
Serves is the operative word because it reflects Sac State’s core mission of teaching, learning and service.
Mark is particularly proud of the Student Bridge Program, a series of field trips to Sacramento State. Scores of students flock to Sac State each year to get a sense of being part of a “college-going culture.” They come away from that experience, he says, with a sense of what they can do if they simply apply themselves in class. The Parent Bridge Program has been similarly successful in bringing parents to campus for a day to navigate the maze of financial aid and learn how they can help keep their kids on the academic track to higher education.
The 65th Street Corridor Project merges theory with practice. It improves student academic achievement, promotes student leadership and motivates parents to become part of the process. The proactive tutoring/mentoring program counters the corrosive influence of violence. It provides a support system that has enabled hundreds of students to begin to make the most of their potential.
The program’s success can be seen in a 300 percent jump in the number of Hiram Johnson graduates who have gone on to college. Service learning is crucial to students’ learning, he says, because they can help mobilize the community against youth gangs and youth violence.
The 65th Street Corridor Project’s several programs provide a lifeline to local residents who are determined to rise above their challenges. Professor Mark has many fond memories of the program making a difference in people’s lives. But none more so than the mother who approached him after a campus visit and proclaimed: “Now I have hope for my daughter and me.” That woman, he proudly adds, has enrolled in college.