As students across Los Angeles settle into a new school year, it's a time to reflect on our work to ensure that students throughout L.A. have the opportunity to go to college.
It’s hard to believe LAUSD students are already heading into their fourth week of school.
I must admit that while we all lamented the end of summer, I have enjoyed getting back into the school routine. Walking the kids to school, reading with Joe-Joe (my 1st grader), checking Maddie's math homework (she's my 4th grader), and shopping for cleats for Charlie and Sam's upcoming flag football season (they're my big boys, 7th and 8th graders) are activities that keep me grounded and connected.
My experiences at the Fulfillment Fund have helped me appreciate how fortunate I am, and how fortunate my kids are in terms of educational opportunity. My wife and I, both college graduates, “know the ropes" of our educational system, and we have the means to provide our kids a myriad of educational supports and extra-curricular activities (computers, music lessons, sporting activities, etc.) to enhance what they receive in school. For my kids the question is not whether they will go to college, but which college will they choose to attend.
For Fulfillment Fund students like Pablo, the questions are often very different.
Pablo grew up in south Los Angeles in a family headed by two hard-working parents – his mom is a housekeeper and his dad is a cashier. Both left school after 8th grade to help to support their family. Though his parents always encouraged Pablo to get as much education as possible, Pablo says he assumed they meant he should finish high school.
When Pablo was in 8th grade, he was introduced to the Fulfillment Fund, and was matched with a mentor. In 9th grade, the Fulfillment Fund provided classroom instruction about college academic requirements, the application process, and financial aid opportunities. In 11th grade, there was individualized college and financial aid counseling, and the chance to attend day and overnight trips to visit colleges. Every year, there was Destination College, a day-long college access conference hosted on a college campus, where Pablo’s mom had the opportunity to learn about different opportunities for students to get loans to help them afford college.
By his junior year, Pablo began to see college as a real possibility, and by the time he stepped onto a campus during the Fulfillment Fund’s Northern California college bus trip, he knew college was definitely in his future.
Pablo enrolled at UC Santa Cruz last fall as a business major and became the first in his immediate family to attend college. He’s now in his second year of college, pursuing his dream of working in finance or banking.
“The Fulfillment Fund set up everything for me to get where I am today,” he says. “They took me to the schools, told me what to do in high school, how to start and finish my applications, everything I needed to turn in, and they persuaded me to get on the right path. If I didn’t have that push at the beginning from the Fulfillment Fund telling me about these schools and telling me how to finish everything, I wouldn’t have been able to do everything correctly.”
Helping ensure that Pablo, and students like him across our city, have the opportunity to go to college - just like my own kids Joe-Joe, Maddie, Charlie and Sam - is the reason I do what I do.
Today, the Fulfillment Fund is serving more than 2,500 students. In the coming years, we intend to help thousands more. Our goals include tripling the number of students we serve in Los Angeles by the year 2018.
Our teachers, counselors and mentors are building relationships, illuminating opportunities, and changing lives. We’re organizing day trips to visit colleges all around Southern California, and overnight trips to see colleges in the Bay Area, San Diego and the Inland Empire. We’re planning this year’s Destination College on Saturday, November 1 at Cal State Northridge. Later in the year, we'll be helping our students study for the SAT, complete their college applications, file for financial aid and compete for scholarships.
All of this is possible because of you and your support, which gives young people hope.