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Trojans in training, in East Los Angeles

by Minne Ho
USC NAI student
Photo: USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative student Tabitha Bunch hopes to attend USC and study marine biology.

USC’s signature college access program, Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) expands its reach to the schools of East Los Angeles, taking the highly successful college preparation program to Murchison Elementary School and El Sereno Elementary School, both in the Family of Schools program in the USC Health Sciences Campus (HSC) neighborhood. The students will attend Saturday NAI classes, tutoring and other workshops at HSC in Boyle Heights.

The intensive seven-year academic enrichment program has yielded an impressive cadre of college graduates over its history, and a 99 percent college enrollment rate, as explained to parents of incoming students during an open house meeting.

An orientation session was held at Murchison Elementary on Aug. 21. Among the speakers at the introductory meeting was USC freshman Tristan Bizar, an alumnus of the rigorous pre-college program. Bizar took time off from his schedule of welcome week activities to meet with new NAI students and their parents, giving them encouragement.

“I couldn’t imagine my life without NAI,” Bizar said. “They’ve given me the tools to succeed.”

His mother, Malva Yorke, who also participated in the program, echoed his sentiment.

“I cannot tell you how it felt to see my son move into USC,” she said, “we never dreamed we could achieve this.”