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May 18
1978 - Concert scene for "KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park" filmed at Magic Mountain [story]

Valera NEST 1
Illustrated rendering of the Valera NEST renovation. Credit: University Advancement.

California State University, Northridge is set to open a first of its kind resource center in the CSU system to provide basic needs services such as food, clothing and wellness in a centralized location on campus. The Valera NEST, officially known as “Nurturing Environment for Students to Thrive,” will open its doors in fall 2025.

Located in a renovated space of the University Student Union (USU), the Valera NEST will house critical programs that enable CSUN students to excel and reach their educational goals. The center’s concept was carefully designed to normalize services and eliminate stigma by providing resources and support to students through an integrated and inclusive strengths-based approach.

While CSUN already offers a variety of support services — the CSUN Food PantryCal Fresh Outreach/Healthy LivingMatty’s Closet, Basic Needs Care Coordinators, financial assistance such as the MataCare Fund and more — the Valera NEST will centralize all these student resources to one location.

Valera NEST

Illustrated rendering of the Valera NEST renovation. Credit: University Advancement.

By doing so, it will facilitate a more seamless connection and access point for students, eliminating the need to walk from location to location across campus to access vital services that can at times be daunting and emotionally taxing.

The Valera NEST will occupy more than 6,000 square feet and feature a community kitchen that will include microwaves, cold food storage lockers, food preparation areas and lounge and eating spaces. Additionally, the renovated space will host cooking demonstrations by Cal Fresh Outreach/Healthy Living utilizing food from the CSUN Food Pantry.

“Ensuring access to basic needs enables our students to focus on their academic goals and make progress along their journey to the commencement stage and a life forever transformed by their CSUN degree,” said CSUN President Erika D. Beck. “The Valera NEST not only helps us provide these services in a coordinated way, it also creates a welcoming environment for students to connect, build community and develop a sense of belonging, all of which facilitate holistic student success.”

The renovated space — which was previously occupied by Wells Fargo Bank and the Pub Sports Grill — was made possible by donors Debbie and Milt Valera, who received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from CSUN in 1968 and an honorary doctorate in humane letters from the university last year, and Rick Levy, who received a bachelor’s degree in political science in CSUN in 1974,  and his wife Barbara Levy, who earned her bachelor’s degree in English from CSUN in 1974, as well as Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, who helped secure $6 million in the California state budget for the project.

Illustrated rendering of the Valera NEST renovation. Credit: University Advancement

“As a CSU graduate who supported myself through college, I remember what it was like to pay rent and not have enough left over to have a full dinner some nights. With housing and food costs currently at an all-time high, I am so proud to have secured nearly ⅓ of the funding to make the Valera NEST a reality, ensuring it will be a central part of CSUN’s campus,” Schiavo said. “These important resources, housed all in one location, will allow students to focus on their education and not finding a place to sleep or when they will have their next meal.”

The facility is named in recognition of the Valeras’ impactful gift, while the community kitchen will be named in honor of Ila Levy, mother and mother-in-law of Rick and Barbara Levy, respectively.

“We are tremendously grateful to Debbie and Milt Valera, Barbara and Rick Levy and Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo for their impactful investment in our students.” Beck said.

Additionally, $5.7 million in USU reserve funds were also secured.

In total, the project cost is estimated to be $18.3 million. Construction is expected to start in May 2024 and be completed by fall 2025.

One of the largest universities in the country, CSUN is an urban, comprehensive university that delivers award-winning undergraduate and graduate programs to more than 36,000 students annually and counts more than 400,000 alumni who fuel the region’s economy. Since its founding in 1958, CSUN has made a significant and long-term economic impact on California, generating nearly $1.9 billion in economic impact and nearly 12,000 jobs each year. CSUN is a Hispanic Serving Institution ranking amongst the top twenty in the nation in graduating Latinx students. More than 70 percent of CSUN students are first-generation college students, and 60 percent come from historically underrepresented groups.

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