MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- In California, the Central Valley continues to see high rates of tobacco use.
UC Merced and CSU Stanislaus are taking action to find a solution by producing the Valley's future tobacco control advocates.
"They've got the energy. They have the commitment," said UC Merced Professor Anna Song. "They want to change their world."
Through a $1.4 million grant, from the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program, the two universities will create courses where students can learn about tobacco control research, plus participate in advocacy projects.
"If we can give them the power to do this through training, education and experience, absolutely," said Song. "They're here for the long haul. They're inheriting this. So let's give them the tools to actually make it a place for them."
The grant lasts through 2025, which will fund three groups at each university.
"Our curriculum is going to marry what happens in the lab with how it actually happens in the real world," Song explained.
There will be an application process. However, both professors said students could major in any field -- they just need to have a passion for serving the community.
"Very often, they think that the only venue to work in health is being a physician or a nurse," said José R. Díaz-Garayúa, a CSU Stanislaus associate professor. "Well, no, there are other ways that you can contribute to the health of your community."
The goal is for the students to graduate and put their training into action through work with public health organizations, doing research or graduate studies.