How One College Corps Student “Helps the Unheard” Through Climate Action

College Corps

By Selen Ozturk

College Corps
Jacob Jauregui

UC Riverside senior Jacob Jauregui’s time in College Corps has inspired him to help people most vulnerable to climate change by pursuing a career in plant science.

“This is my second year with the program,” said Jauregui, a cellular and molecular biology major. Last year, he tutored elementary school students in an after-school program at Ruth H. Lewis Community Center in Riverside — “which sounds much different from climate action, which is what I do now, but the patience and gratification involved in getting to help these students grow was very similar.”

“What I took from it to use in my gardening work was how much just a little more time and care really does matter for each student,” he continued. “For instance, there was a student who loved races and competitions, so I helped him do his math homework as a kind of race with me. Another loved singing, so I helped him learn vocabulary that way. Learning a student’s own learning style seems so basic, but it’s less common for tutors than you’d think.”

Through #CaliforniansForAll College Corps, each year more than 3,000 students like Jauregui reduce student debt and help their communities while earning up to $10,000 for serving 450 hours with organizations focused on K-12 education, climate action or food insecurity..

California was the first state to create a college-based service corps like this; since then, Iowa and Minnesota have launched a similar year-long program running through this August, while New York Governor Hochul announced the creation of the Empire State Service Corps last January.

College Corps

This year, Jauregui will complete his service as a College Corps Fellow for UC Riverside focused on climate action, primarily “cleaning, weeding, and planting to make new gardens and restoring old ones around campus to make them more eco-friendly; for example, with more native grasses and water-saving tools,” he explained.

“Careerwise, I know I want to become a plant biologist but now it’s become so much more of a personal mission,” Jauregui said.

“I’d like to do research as a professor,” he explained. “As I prepare to apply to graduate school now, I’m working in a lab on campus extracting plant DNA from the same weeds I deal with gardening, and in the lab I test compounds to protect them from pests and diseases … Now, there’s such a clear overlap with my goals as a climate action fellow, both to be able to feed people and empower them to grow food themselves.”

College Corps

“As I finish up this summer I’m also about to graduate,” he added, “and I’m thinking about how when I was growing up as a Mexican American, many people most vulnerable to climate change were also most invisible among those taking action against climate change. It’s what motivated me to pursue higher education, and now I’m a lot clearer about how plant biology can be a path to help those in need, to help the unheard.”

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