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GNC Leadership Circle dinner focuses on community

USC President C. L. Max Nikias hosted the annual GNC Leadership Circle dinner on Sept. 27 at his home in San Marino, Calif. (Photo/Steve Cohn)

“Not having someone to turn to about academic questions was a struggle during my early educational career and meant that I had a lot of work to do on my own,” said Esther Mojica ’12, a first-generation college graduate.

“For this reason, I felt responsible for helping my younger brother and sister weather it,” she continued, “with a mathematical concept, a new vocabulary word or checking that my sister completed the unfinished homework that she often hid under her bed.”

Mojica, who is pursuing her master’s in teaching at the USC Rossier School of Education, credits her involvement with USC ReadersPLUS — a literacy and math tutoring program administered by the Joint Educational Project (JEP) and funded by the Good Neighbors Campaign (GNC) — for helping to cement her passion for education.

Mojica’s moving testimonial was one of several highlights of the annual GNC President’s Leadership Circle Dinner on Sept. 27. Held at the USC president’s home in San Marino, Calif., the dinner drew a crowd of nearly 380 USC staff and faculty, all of whom pledged at least 1 percent of their salaries to last year’s GNC, the university’s annual fundraising program that supports university-community partnerships.

“Many years ago, the Trojan Family realized that for USC to be a great university, it must also be a good neighbor,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias, who co-hosted the dinner with first lady Niki C. Nikias. “We are continually strengthening our bonds with our local communities through a multitude of programs that provide education, promote health and enrich lives.”

Organized by USC Civic Engagement, GNC invites faculty and staff to donate to USC Neighborhood Outreach and United Way programs. Now in its 19th year, the campaign has set this year’s fundraising goal at $1.6 million.

“This is the second year we’ve had the opportunity to host this event at our home, which gathers the most dedicated members of the Trojan Family for an evening of recognition and celebration,” said Nikias, thanking the attendees for their generosity in supporting the GNC. “By embracing the larger community, you reaffirm USC’s ideals as an academic community that provides service and leadership to its neighborhoods.

“This year, and in successive years, your contributions to the Good Neighbors Campaign will be counted as part of the university’s larger campaign,” he added.

Amid a night of Italian food and opera music performed by tenors from the USC Thornton School of Music, as well as a special GNC video, it was Mojica who left a lasting impression on the guests.

Mojica, whose passion for education has helped her climb the ranks at ReadersPLUS, starting as a tutor and now a graduate coordinator working with JEP tutors at seven neighborhood schools, stressed the importance of the campaign and just how far the money could go.

“These students, like myself, want to succeed in the classroom but may lack background knowledge on how to achieve this success,” she said. “Through patience and perseverance from parents, teachers and the community, this population can have limitless opportunities.”

The GNC runs through Oct. 31, but donations can be made at any time during the year.

To view the campaign’s online giving page, visit

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GNC Leadership Circle dinner focuses on community

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