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 early literacy programs each year. The USC McMorrow Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI), the university’s signature college prep program enrolls close to 1,000 students annually. USC McMorrow NAI is an academically rigorous and comprehensive, seven-year pre-college 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 attending Saturday Academy classes along with weekday morning classes at USC, after-school tutoring and parent workshops. 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 fully funded financial aid package- minus loans, to USC, provided they meet admission requirements. The USC McMorrow NAI program also provides support to all NAI Scholars through their first college degree. 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 42 percent enrollment at USC.
The USC McMorrow NAI program recruitment season kicks off in the spring of each year, when program representatives recruit at local elementary schools. The program is open to students that reside in the neighborhoods surrounding USC’s University Park and Health Sciences Campuses, that will be attending Foshay Learning Center, El Sereno Middle School and Nightingale Middle School. USC McMorrow NAI representatives hold recruiting presentations where applications to the program are distributed, however, schools are encouraged to send letters home to parents that are not able to take part in the presentations. The USC McMorrow NAI application must be accompanied by the Student Criteria Sheet, filled out by a teacher, that indicates the student meets basic requirements.
Prior to being interviewed for consideration, students must meet the following selection criteria:
- A resident from the neighborhood
- Eligible to attend the following schools: Foshay Learning Center, El Sereno Middle School and Nightingale Middle School
- A 5th grade student getting ready to enter the 6th grade
- Most students are a C+ average
- Students must agree to attend all Saturday Academy sessions for seven years and parents must agree to attend the family development institute on Saturdays
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 100 percent of these seminars, which meet on the University Park campus for three hours on Saturday mornings about 12 to 16 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 fully funded financial aid 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. This includes visits by USC McMorrow NAI staff, which travel to various campuses around the country to check in and make sure NAI alumni are on track to graduate from their respective institution.
Retention Component staff also offer supportive services to NAI alumni attending other universities or transferring from community colleges to four-year schools.
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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