Zeyad Elsayed has been administering the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies’ Learning Resource Center at the Florin Mall Shopping Center in south Sacramento, California, since 1998. The project is a unique partnership between a higher education institution (California State University, Sacramento) and a major commercial sector institution, Florin Mall. The Learning Resource Center is better known both on campus and in the community as the Mall Hall.
The purpose of the Mall Hall and, thus, Zeyad’s purpose as Director of Programming, has been to improve the level of computer literacy in south Sacramento, a low-income urban area. A substantial portion of area residents are limited English-speakers. Most have little or no access to training in the use of computer technology. The Mall Hall is a community service project entirely administered and staffed by students from California State University, Sacramento; Florin Mall donates space and utilities.
In the past two years, Zeyad has added 18 new computers to Mall Hall’s original 12-station network through fund raising and working collaboratively with the community. All computers are connected to the Internet. He also succeeded in establishing morning orientation sessions at the facility where members of the community can learn how to use computers to help them in today’s job market. The facility offers a safe and quiet environment for school children doing homework. In addition to serving junior high and high school students, the Mall Hall serves a wide range of adults, including women in welfare-to-work training programs and senior citizens.
Zeyad has met the challenge of staffing the Mall Hall with able, paid instructors recruited from the university’s student body, and successfully acquired corporate donations to fund proposed programs. In addition, he secured the resources needed to switch from a dial-up service to a faster DSL Internet service. He has been able to maintain the commitment to providing all of the services totally free, as a benefit to the public. The Mall Hall programs allow CSUS students to participate in educating others who are less fortunate in acquiring a formal education. Many high school students at the Center are empowered by Zeyad and the other student staff members. Many have eventually decided that college is the best route for them to take in making a future for themselves.
Zeyad has also played an important role in helping these high school students gather and process all the information needed to start down the higher education path. The Learning Resource Center was established to help address the “digital divide” in Sacramento. Zeyad is fulfilling this mission and helping the people of this underserved community to reach for a brighter future.