CAVE at 50
Chico State’s flagship volunteer program celebrates half a century of community service
During her sophomore year, Briana Azevedo didn’t enjoy being a student at Chico State. At least not until she joined Community Action Volunteers in Education (CAVE).
“I didn’t really like being at Chico,” she said. “I realized it was probably because I didn’t do anything outside of school. So, I was walking down the hallway and I saw a CAVE flier. It was the last day for applications, so I just randomly chose the tutorial program … and I fell in love with the whole thing.”
Four years later, Azevedo, now 22, serves as the nonprofit’s community connections director. She oversees six of CAVE’s programs that focus on volunteering at local shelters and senior homes and during park cleanups. The organization operates more than a dozen programs, including youth outreach and tutoring.
This weekend, CAVE is celebrating its 50th year of working in the community. The festivities include an alumni brunch, a meet-and-greet and an anniversary dinner. The main event, however, is Chico Make a Difference Day, which is co-hosted by six other local organizations and set for Saturday (Oct. 15).
“We are inviting our alumni, students and community members to be part of a large service day,” said Ann Schwab, CAVE’s program director. “Typically, the clubs and organizations in Chico … they do their days of service in the community and do great work, and the university usually hosts service days in the spring and the fall—but we never join forces together. So this year, in commemorating CAVE’s 50th anniversary, we are joining forces.”
CAVE was founded in 1966. Tim Tregarthen, an economics student at Chico State, wanted to help local children who were struggling in school and proposed pairing undergrads with elementary school students, according to Chico State and CN&R archives.
After a successful bid for Associated Students president, Tregarthen and other student leaders launched a tutoring program for local school districts and farm labor camps. The program has since evolved into CAVE.
The scope is impressive. “In our 50 years, we have had 93 different programs,” Schwab said. “We’ve had 50,000 volunteers who have served 3 million hours and we’ve served 1 million individuals.”
Students who have worked with CAVE have become judges, mayors and county supervisors after graduating. Others have continued to work for nonprofit organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club, or pursued careers in education.
Indeed, CAVE can have a profound impact on its members, Schwab said. As a CAVE alumna who graduated in 1977, she’s served as mayor of Chico and currently is running for her fourth term on the City Council. CAVE students tend to see a bigger picture, she said.
“Through the years, I’ve seen a number of students come through CAVE and feel that they were going out and saving the world, changing the world,” she said. The most remarkable change, however, is in the students.
“They change how they address and solve problems,” she said. “I’ve seen a tremendous amount of growth that students achieve through the leadership development with CAVE. It amazes me.”
Azevedo started as a tutor for math and science. She’s glad she joined CAVE as a challenge to herself to be more involved on campus, because tutoring has set her on a career path.
“I remember one day [one of the kids I was tutoring said], ‘You know, Briana, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be passing these classes,’” she said. “So it was really awesome seeing that I was actually helping them and making a difference. … CAVE really made me realize that I want to go into teaching and have an effect on kids.”
Azevedo now offers advice and helps fledgeling CAVE members as much as she can.
“I tell freshmen that it’s really good to get involved in something,” she said. “Maybe it’s not your thing, but it’s good to try because you are going to find what you are meant to be in college. If you don’t do anything, you’re not going to like your college experience.”