While John and Sharon Tesoriero’s children were in elementary and secondary school, they did extraordinary work as parent volunteers, with Sharon eventually sitting on the Board of Trustees at the Viewpoint School in Calabasas. Seeing no reason to stop there, the couple continued their involvement when daughter Ashley enrolled at USC by funding the ReadersPlus Library that is now in their name at the USC Dornsife Joint Educational Project (JEP). From JEP, the Tesoriero’s expanded their vision to USC Annenberg, where Ashley is now a senior in the Public Relations program, by making a $250,000 gift to jump start a comprehensive community engagement initiative. Bringing now somewhat disparate programs such as Intersections South LA and Metamorphosis under one roof, it will enhance an already strong effort. “Annenberg under Dean Wilson has become an incubator for community and civic initiatives, and we need to embrace this role,” said Gordon Stables, USC Annenberg assistant dean for Student Affairs. “With more coordination, we can build on what we already have, giving all of our faculty, staff and students a way to use their expertise in developing long term and stable pathways for going out into the community.” The new initiative will combine this community involvement with academic coursework as well as research to study the program’s impact.
In keeping with the Annenberg Advantage "The Tesoriero’s clearly care very deeply about social justice and we're thrilled that they have chosen our School to further their impact in this area," said Ernest J. Wilson III, dean of the USC Annenberg School. “It will be a great boost to our culture of positive societal impact through innovation that is so much a part of the Annenberg Advantage.” “This all stems from our founder Walter Annenberg’s mandate ‘to be of service to all,’” Wilson explained. “We know that as media platforms continue to evolve, the need for timely, accurate information in the service of all members of society is more urgent now than ever.”
Leading the way in empowering underserved communities Under the direction of Stables, a search is now underway to hire a full-time Community Engagement Coordinator to work with local non-profits to identify projects to support. The coordinator will also work with faculty to provide the curricular foundation for the initiative, and help to expand USC Annenberg’s reach into local high schools via programs such as Intersections South LA and Reporter Corps. “All over Los Angeles, these folks from Annenberg are in high schools teaching everything from local reporting to media technology,” Stables, who himself has launched highly successful debate programs at many local schools, said. “They’re running into challenges as they work with the local principals and faculty to deal with the details. They need assistance and this initiative goes a long way in giving that.”
Tying it to the curriculum “We hope to substantially increase and enhance the way civic engagement is incorporated in our curriculum,” said Alison Trope, clinical professor and director of Undergraduate Studies. “Annenberg is in a unique place as a School of Communication and Journalism to speak to these civic engagement issues. They are core to our curriculum and our research.” “It’s not just important for Annenberg students, but for USC students as a whole to get involved in the community and engage in different ways,” Trope said. “You don’t have to do study abroad programs to get experience with other kinds of communities. We can do it in our own backyard.” Trope hopes the initiative will promote increased synergy within the Annenberg community. "We already engage in the community in many different ways through curriculum and research,” she said. “We need to see the connections between these areas and the work different individuals, projects and classes are doing, whether through partnerships with local schools, organizations, or committees. We need to talk to each other more, to connect and build on each other’s work.”
Fueling the inspiration The Tesoriero gift — resulting in the naming of the Tesoriero Community Engagement Collaboration Room on the third floor of Wallis Annenberg Hall — will launch an effort to raise $1 million from additional sources to support this effort over the next four years. “We are happy to help students enhance their learning through hands-on experience in a way that also allows them to give back to the community,” Sharon Tesoriero said. “It’s something in life that you can’t teach — when you learn from others. It’s going to be incredible just watching how this all unfolds.” “John and I are passionate about helping our community and we’ve tried to instill that in our two children,” Tesoriero said. “Ashley has had a lot of input in this; we make all of these decisions collectively as a family.” “The passion that we’ve experienced at Annenberg has really touched us,” Tesoriero concluded. “It’s a very inspiring place and it makes one want to give to the future … to fuel the inspiration.”