Leslie and William McMorrow Neighborhood Academic Initiative
The Leslie and William McMorrow Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) at USC supports more than 1,000 children in college access programs and more than 600 children in pre-school and early literacy programs each year. The USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI), the university’s signature college prep program enrolls close to 1,000 students annually. NAI is a rigorous, seven-year pre-college enrichment program designed to prepare students from South and East Los Angeles for admission to a college or university. Under the program guidelines, students must commit to a seven-year plan of after-school tutoring, coupled with Saturday morning classes. Parents are also required to attend a biweekly Family Development Institute program to create a 360 degree, hands-on approach to reinforce student academic goals and study habits and maximize a healthy home environment. Students who remain in the program in good standing from sixth grade until their high school graduation are eligible for a full-scholarship to USC, provided they meet admission requirements. Since its first graduating class in 1997, nearly 1,040 students have completed the program with 83 percent enrollment as freshman at four-year universities, and 35 percent enrollment at USC.
Family Development Institute
Because students are more likely to succeed in school when their parents are involved in their education, the NAI Family Development Institute offers seminars for parents/guardians or advocates of NAI scholars. Topics are developed with input from parents, staff and teachers, and have included adolescent/child development, effective communication, creating a positive learning environment in the home, fostering educational success and conflict resolution, in addition to issues of special concern to parents of seniors, such as the college application process and financial aid.
For scholars to be eligible for the NAI scholarships, their parents must commit to attending 80 percent of these seminars, which meet on the University Park campus for four hours on Saturday mornings about 12 times a year. If parents are unable to attend due to work or other obligations, they may send an advocate – such as an aunt or uncle, grandparent, godparent, adult sibling, neighbor or friend who is involved with the child.
As part of the Family Development Institute, parents elect a leadership committee that meets bimonthly to coordinate communication with the group at-large. NAI parents also participate in field trips as well as in fundraising activities.
While the Neighborhood Academic Initiative’s primary goal is to get neighborhood students into USC with a full financial package, the obligation doesn’t stop there. The Retention Component helps ensure that a student’s hard work getting into USC or another institution results in a degree.
For students enrolled at USC, NAI staff members work in partnership with the Center for Academic Support’s Undergraduate Success Program to help ensure the success of the students they have known intimately over the previous seven years. Scholars attend special seminars, meet with counselors and, when necessary, receive interventions based on mid-term grades. In addition, the Undergraduate Success Program offers a mentoring program that pairs incoming NAI scholars with advanced scholars who can help with the transition to college.
Retention Component staff also offer supportive services to NAI scholars attending other universities or transferring from community colleges to four-year schools.
Associate Senior Vice President, USC Educational Partnerships
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NAI In The News
USC News: Nikias shares his own story and encouraging words with pupils in USC’s unique college prep program
Univision:Univision34 profiles USC’s commitment to sending local students in East LA and South LA to college.
Marcus Wilson-Smith from KTLA’s post video of NAI interview: Today we got to talk with USC Trojans Senior Vice President of University Relations Thomas Sayles and graduates of the Usc Neighborhood Academic Initiative. #KTLA #
The New York Times: Lifting Kids to College
Hoy (Spanish language media): Foshay sends more students to USC than any other high school
Fox News Los Angeles affiliate KTTV-TV highlighted the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative and first-generation USC freshman Stephanie Cuevas. Cuevas graduated from Foshay Learning Center, a community school that was USC’s top feeder institute for the new freshman class. The story also included comments by USC Dean of Admission Timothy Brunold. Los Angeles School Report quoted USC Provost Michael Quick and NAI Director Kim Thomas-Barrios.
More NAI news
“I’ve been to many, probably hundreds of universities across the country and I’ve never seen anything like [the NAI]. It’s the best example for a university engaging with its minority community in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding it … It’s truly amazing; I commend it. [Clinton] recommended I tell you about it.” -Henry Cisneros, former HUD secretary, at the Mexican American Leadership Initiative event honoring Hillary Clinton
November 9, 2013