University of Southern California


Working with our neighbors to build a strong community

Congrats NAI Grads: Headed to West Point, Pomona and USC

USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative graduates 57 South Los Angeles students, all enrolling in higher education; 14 will attend USC on full-tuition scholarships

This year’s NAI graduates will be honored on Thursday, May 9 at 5:30 p.m. in USC’s Town and Gown Ballroom. The students will reveal which university or college they will attend.

USC Trustee Mónica Lozano, the chief executive officer and chair of the board of ImpreMedia, will also be honored.


Which high school graduating class boasts 100 percent of its students enrolling in higher education?

All 57 graduates of USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) program, an intensive program serving public school students from the university’s neighborhoods, will continue their education this fall.

Fourteen of the graduates will attend USC on a full-tuition scholarship, with more headed for other top universities around the country, including the United States Military Academy at West Point,Pomona College, Bucknell University and University of California campuses.

The program’s students, almost all the first in their families to attend college, spent six to seven years coming to USC’s campus for early-morning math and English classes and after school tutoring during the week and daylong Saturday classes.

To date, 745 South L.A. students have graduated from the NAI program and gone to college.

“NAI is really a game changer in the south Los Angeles neighborhoods around USC’s University Park campus,” said Kim Thomas-Barrios, NAI’s executive director. “Instead of wondering if they are going to attend college, students are thinking about where they are going to college. It transforms a student’s view of their future prospects as one filled with choice.”

2013 highlights:

Tristan Baizar was accepted to 14 schools but chose to attend USC to study business as a Norman

Topping scholarship recipient. He will be speaking at this year’s graduation event. Tristan was born in Belize and came to America when he was 4. He attened Foshay Learning Center from Kindergarten through 12th grade. “NAI gave him direction,” said Tristan’s mother, Malva Yorke.

“This was everything he worked toward for the past seven years.”

Carlos Prado will attend the United States Military Academy at West Point after graduating from Foshay Learning Center, where he attended school since kindergarten. He plans to transform his community though financial literacy education.

Vanessa Lopez, who is helping to make a difference in her community through her involvement with a performance-based activism group, will attend USC.

Oscar Sanabria, an accomplished musician who calls music his “oxygen” and plays the piano, drums, trumpet, violin, bass and trombone, will attend California State University, Los Angeles.

Karolina Reyes and Arcelia Gante are aerial acrobats and will attend USC and El Camino College, respectively.

Gricelda Bonilla’s two daughters graduated from NAI and earned full-tuition scholarships to USC. The oldest, Jacqueline, graduates from USC this year with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Bonilla’s younger daughter Jennifer is a USC junior studying to be an astronautical engineer. Both of Bonilla’s daughters play in the USC Marching Band.

“Since they were in kindergarten, teachers told me they were smart, and (my daughters) realized with education you have a better future,” Bonilla said. In NAI, “you take the extra academic classes, go to school on Saturday. Seven years of Saturdays, it’s a lot of work. Since I didn’t have the opportunity to go to college, I wanted (my daughters) to have that opportunity for a better life.”

Event Contact: Kimberly Alexander, Senior Executive Director of Development, (213) 740-6614 or

Media Contact: USC Media Relations at (213) 740-2215 or

About the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative

NAI Video

The USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative is a seven-year, pre-college, comprehensive, educational enrichment program operated by USC Civic Engagement. NAI prepares low-income, minority students living in the neighborhoods surrounding USC for success at a college or

Over the past 15 years, 99 percent of NAI graduates have enrolled in secondary education programs, with 83 percent enrolling as freshmen in four-year colleges. More than one-third of NAI graduates during that time attended USC.

NAI also includes a Family Development Institute that assists parents in supporting their college bound student with workshops and training on issues including financial literacy and college retention.

About USC in the Community

The University of Southern California has been a proud and active member of its community since 1880.

USC believes its strength as a great university depends on its ability to be a good neighbor.

USC is dedicated to supporting healthy, vibrant and engaged communities around its University Park and Health Sciences campuses. To this end, USC supports families and youth, promotes small business development and economic growth and instills in its students a profound commitment to participate in civic life.

• USC invests $32 million annually to support community initiatives, serving 40,000 community members.

• USC students, staff and faculty devote more than 650,000 hours in the community each year.

• USC has adopted 15 neighborhood elementary, middle and high schools as part of its Family of Schools program, sharing with these schools its students and educational resources.

• USC’s local hire program puts $5 million in annual salaries back into the neighborhood.

• USC taught 60 small business owners the skills to obtain $61 million dollars in capital, contracts and loans.

• USC has more than 3,000 children in college access programs and more than 500 children in preschool programs.

• The USC Good Neighbors Campaign raises more than a $1 million in donations every year for community programs through staff and faculty donations.

These efforts have been recognized on a national level by the Carnegie Foundation, the president of the American Council on Education, the World Health Organization and the “Saviors of Our Cities” survey of best university civic partnerships. Community outreach was a key factor in TIME magazine naming USC College of the Year in 2000.