College Corps Student Finds Career Path in San Luis Obispo

College Corps

Selen Ozturk

When Ria Patel joined College Corps during her freshman year at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, she not only found her career path for helping people in need; she earned enough money to pay down her student debt.

“I came here from Arkansas to study psychology and applied to College Corps because I saw the housing and health access inequities and wanted to be part of the solution,” Patel said. Now in her third year, she has worked in homeless shelters and health clinics while earning close to $10,000 to pay off student loans.

#CaliforniansForAll College Corps helps over 3,000 students a year like Patel avoid student debt while earning up to $10,000 for serving 450 hours with community based organizations in K-12 education, climate action or food insecurity fields. The program, launched in September 2022, will finish its second year in late 2024.

At the shelter where Patel worked, 40 Prado, Patel managed the intake line or coordinated six to ten recuperative care beds for those who were discharged from the hospital. In the evenings she helped serve about 250 meals, organize donations or coordinate 150 to 200 overnight beds.

“One of my favorite parts was the opportunity to meet people with all kinds of stories and backgrounds, and seeing someone who’d come in routinely for a year finally get housed and go on to bigger and better things,” Patel said. “It was also the hardest part, when you’ve gotten to know and help someone closely, how easily things can go wrong through a health, family or drug issue. It’s a reality check.”

This year, Patel has dedicated more of her Corps work to SLO Noor Foundation, a volunteer-based organization providing free medical, dental, vision and women’s health clinics to uninsured adults in San Luis Obispo County and northern Santa Barbara County.

“Some of our patients are homeless with nowhere else to go, and all are uninsured. It’s gratifying to be able to help someone who’s fallen through the cracks regain their health,” Patel continued. “Patient interaction is my favorite part, as with the shelter, and it reminds me why I want to pursue psychology and medicine in the first place.”

Patel is preparing to transfer to San Diego State for her final two years to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“I told my sister at San Jose State about College Corps, and she’s applying in the coming year,” she said. “I love this program. My time with it has shown me how fulfilling I find that combination of social psychology and individual care, and now I think I want to get a Master’s and practice in the field myself.”

0 - 0

Thank You For Your Vote!

Sorry You have Already Voted!