I have been provost for more than 4 years and during that time, I have been asked one question over and over again: What is your favorite program at USC? And each year, my answer is the same: the Leslie and William McMorrow Neighborhood Academic Initiative. So as you can imagine, it was with great pleasure that I attended last week’s gala to celebrate the 2019 NAI graduating class.
The goal of NAI is to make the dream of higher education a reality by involving the whole family; studies have shown that students are more likely to succeed in school when their parents are involved in their education. The USC McMorrow NAI pre-college prep program offers students in East and South Los Angeles the opportunity and access to higher education and their parents’ the tools and training needed to help their child through the admissions process. The rigorous program requires students from sixth to twelfth grade to attend Saturday and summer courses and their parents’ to commit to bi-weekly family development classes.
“The gala is really the fruition of seven years of hard work towards the dream of college,” said Kim Thomas-Barrios, associate senior vice president, USC educational partnerships. “Seven years’ worth of all academic Saturday Academies, afterschool tutoring and mandatory summer sessions that have paid off on their pathway to college.”
Students who remain in the program for all seven years and meet the admissions requirements are eligible for a fully funded financial aid package to USC or financial aid to attend the college or university of their choice. To date, 1,097 students have completed the program with more than 80 percent enrolled as freshman at four-year universities. Roughly, 40 percent of the NAI students will enroll at USC. This year, 57 students graduated from the program with 19 of them planning to attend our university. Yvonne Hernandez is one of those future Trojans. Yvonne and her family were seated next to me at the gala. She plans to attend USC in the fall.
“My ultimate goal was made that night, and that goal was to make my parents proud,” Yvonne said. “As I saw them clapping, I knew that I made them proud. I was overwhelmed with joy because I was finally able to see how proud my parents were of me.” During my conversation with Yvonne, I asked her how she felt about the NAI program overall. Her response was one word: grateful. And I too am grateful that Yvonne Hernandez will be a student at the University of Southern California.
I am also incredibly grateful to our donors and the program’s namesake USC Trustee and alumnus William McMorrow and his wife, Leslie, who were also honored for their continued generosity and support. This program is a model for higher education institutions across the nation, and should be replicated throughout our country.
—Michael W. Quick, May 7, 2019