The Russell L. Caldwell Neighborhood Scholarship Program was born out of the tumultuous decade of the 1960s that sparked dramatic transformations in higher education. Strident voices from communities across urban America challenged universities to mix and match the underserved with the wellserved and the educationally disenfranchised with the franchised to make real our nation’s longstanding mantra that access to higher education is instrumental in guiding all Americans toward a more productive and prosperous future.
What is it?
The USC RFA/Caldwell Neighborhood Scholarship Program is the longest running community designated scholarship program of its kind at USC. Since 1967, the Caldwell Program has granted more than 400 awards totaling more than a million dollars.
Students from neighboring high schools who are accepted to USC may apply for merit-based scholarships which are now set at $3000 per year and are renewable for up to three additional years. The high schools include Belmont, Crenshaw, Dorsey, Foshay Learning Center, Fremont, Huntington Park, Jefferson, Los Angeles, Manual Arts and Roosevelt.
Why Is It Important?
The Caldwell Scholars focus on high academic achievement and also contribute mightily to USC’s community service mission and spirit by volunteering to teach and counsel at-risk students from local middle and high schools. Caldwell Neighborhood Scholarship Program helps with the cost of books, and student fees over and above tuition costs.
Professor Caldwell’s Vision
In December 1965, shortly after the Watts riots, the late Russell L. Caldwell, a specialist in Early American history, a human rights activist, and the president of the USC Faculty Association, challenged his colleagues to support a positive new kind of demonstration at USC — a commitment to create a USC-to-neighborhood relationship by providing scholarships for students from high schools surrounding USC.
“We seek your aid,” he outlined in his initial plea to USC staff and faculty, “in establishing Faculty- Staff supported scholar-ships for worthy students in USC’s neighborhood who could not otherwise ever hope to attend USC.” He challenged his colleagues to “donate $5 or more per month through payroll deductions in order to raise $2000 a year to aid students.”
The USC Neighborhood Scholarship, as it was then called, officially launched in 1966. Although the $2000 goal was not reached immediately, the first Scholarship was awarded the next year to Preston Mike, Jr., a 17-year-old mid-year graduate of Manual Arts High School. Mike re-ceived $549 to help pay for books and tuition and was granted additional awards until his graduation in 1972.
Professor Caldwell died in 1979, and at his request, the USC Retired Faculty Association became a sponsor of the scholarship. The RFA then voted to change the name to the Russell L. Caldwell Neighborhood Scholarship Program.