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Moving testimonials at Good Neighbors dinner

Moving Testimonials at Good Neighbors Dinner
Yuri Guardodo, President Steven B. Sample and Harut Hovsepyan at the Good Neighbors Campaign President's Leadership Circle Dinner

“I am a product of the impoverished families that struggle every day,” said new lawyer Yuri Guardado as she gave heartfelt thanks to the USC Trojans who help fund the Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI).

Harut Hovsepyan, studying for an M.A. in public health at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, was no less eloquent.

“Growing up in the inner city of Los Angeles turned out to be a blessing,” he said, thanks to the STAR program on USC’s Health Sciences campus “which opened my eyes to a world I wasn’t aware of. I uncovered the wonders of the lab and learned the joys of contributing to a scientific publication.

The two scholars spoke at the Good Neighbors Campaign President’s Leadership Circle Dinner on Oct. 27 at the USC President’s Home in San Marino. They thanked the 280 Trojans in attendance – all of whom pledged at least 1 percent of their salaries to the 2008 Good Neighbors Campaign – for making a difference in their lives.

President Steven B. Sample announced that going into the final week of the Good Neighbors Campaign, more than $1 million had been raised. By Nov. 4, $1,191,000 had been raised, tantalizingly close to the $1.2 million goal. Pledges have been made by 5,107 members of the Trojan Family for a participation rate of 36 percent. Pledges are still being accepted. Visit for information.

For inspiration to contribute, look no further than Guardado and Hovsepyan.

Hovespyan did not speak English when he emigrated from the Soviet Union. As a student at Bravo Medical Magnet High School, he found a “safe haven” as a medical researcher in USC labs.

“What goes on in these labs is nothing short of a miracle,” he told the dinner audience. “The STAR program inspired me to go to college and major in science and literature.”

He also volunteers as a research mentor for tutoring programs funded by the Good Neighbors Campaign.

“There are intelligent, amazing kids in the inner city,” he said. “These students simply need the opportunity.”

Guardado, who came to the United States from El Salvador in the mid-1980s, attended Foshay Learning Center near the University Park campus. Her years as an NAI student propelled her to USC, where she received a B.A. in political science with a minor in international relations in 2005. Three years later, she graduated from Loyola University Law School, passed the bar and now works for the Felahy & Associates law firm in Long Beach. She is vice president of the NAI Alumni Association.

“My parents couldn’t continue their education,” she told the group. “During my four years in NAI, my parents prepared also” to help me attend. Her sister Carla followed in her footsteps in the Neighborhood Initiative and is now a sophomore Spanish major at USC.

“This program has a lasting impact on families for generations to come,” Guardado said. “Thank you for your kindness and generosity.”

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