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President honors Leadership Circle for life-changing generosity

An annual gala toasts the Trojans who donated 1 percent of their salaries to the Good Neighbors Campaign, which aids neighborhoods surrounding the USC campuses

President Leadership Circle gala 2015
NAI scholar Joseph Hernandez, Parent Leadership Board President Yahaira Hernandez and USC President C. L. Max Nikias in San Marino (USC Photo/Steve Cohn)

USC President C. L. Max Nikias and Niki C. Nikias hosted the President’s Leadership Circle at an annual gala honoring USC staff and faculty who contribute at least 1 percent of their salaries to the Good Neighbors Campaign.

The Nikiases thanked Trojans for their contributions to the campaign, which raised nearly $1.6 million in 2014. Since 1994, the campaign has raised  $19.3 million to support hundreds of community partnerships. Leadership Circle members accounted for 60 percent of this year’s funds raised, totaling $655,000.

“These vital programs enhance the educational experience of local children, providing lessons in music, arts, sports and literacy as well as helping ensure their safety and health,” said Nikias, who recently was awarded the Carnegie Corp.’s Academic Leadership Award. “Every single day, you make a difference in people’s lives.”

Friends and family

Yahaira Hernandez, president of the Parent Leadership Board for the Neighborhood Academic Initiative, enrolled her three sons in the program, which serves public school students from the university’s neighborhoods. To date, 871 South Los Angeles students have graduated from the program and gone to college.

Speaking at the podium, Hernandez talked about how the NAI oversees a college-access track for youth and a parental support system.

“NAI ensures that a legacy of learning and opportunity endures in our community — and parent involvement is key,” said Hernandez, whose oldest son is now a freshman at USC.

This year, thanks to a generous donation by USC Trustee Joan Payden, the NAI program has expanded to schools in eastern Los Angeles near the university’s Health Sciences Campus.

“Adolescents and young adults need mentors,” said donor James Jacob, medical director of the USC Engemann Student Health Center and associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “NAI provides transformational mentoring in both personal and pre-professional realms.”

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President honors Leadership Circle for life-changing generosity

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