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Through college preparedness program, USC paves pathways for future leaders

Through its college preparedness program, USC paves pathways to college for future thought leaders

May 22, 2023

[Photos: NAI alumni include (clockwise from top left) Juan Bello, Joshua Burks, Karla Cáceres-Perez, Nomar Rodriguez and Mauricio Garcia. (Photos/Courtesy of the subjects]

On Wednesday, May 24, USC will celebrate 96 local students who have completed six years of rigorous study and are college bound as part of the USC Leslie and William McMorrow Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) access program.

Now in its 31st year, the program provides equal opportunities for success in higher education and beyond for students living in the neighborhoods near USC’s campuses. This year, 52 NAI students were offered acceptance packets to USC programs across the university. Many have declared majors in engineering and health sciences.

More than 1,500 seniors have completed the NAI program and headed to college since the program began in 1997.

Media RSVP: Pamela Madrid at or 626-297-7199 ; or Emily Gersema gersema@usc.eduor (213) 712-3168

  • WHAT: Leslie and William McMorrow Neighborhood Academic Initiative Gala
  • WHEN: Wednesday, May 24, 5 pm — 8:30 pm
  • WHERE: USC University Park Campus; Founders Park
  • WHO: In addition to the 2023 graduates, their families, NAI alumni and representatives, special guests and speakers will attend, including:
    • Alysha Del Valle, emcee and media personality
    • Richard Weitz, WME co-chairman and “Quarantunes” philanthropist
    • Byron Allen, honoree, founder, chairman & CEO of Allen Media Group
    • Leslie and William McMorrow, USC Board of Trustees members whose transformative namesake gift supports NAI


  • A special visit from the Galaxy
  • NAI graduates greeting all guests during networking hour
  • Academic honors and scholarship awards ceremony
  • Presentation of medals of completion

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About NAI

NAI boasts a legacy that spans south and east area L.A. neighborhoods and generations of students from low-income households and public schools near USC’s University Park Campus and the Health Sciences Campus in Boyle Heights. Nearly 1,000 scholars in grades 6-12 participate in the program annually, with many advancing to become first-generation college students.

Students spend seven years attending early morning advanced math and English classes on the USC University Park Campus with their high school teachers, along with full-day Saturday sessions, after-school tutoring and mandatory summer sessions. Parents and advocates commit to monthly seminars covering child development, communication, home-learning environments, the college application process, financial aid and more.

The program has a 100% high school graduation rate and a 99% college graduation rate. Since the first graduating class in 1997, approximately 44% of NAI scholars have attended USC as first year or transfer students. To date, 107 scholars have transferred to USC as undergraduates.

Graduates of the program enroll in prestigious institutions across the country, including USC. Scholars who meet USC’s competitive admission requirements and choose to attend receive a fully financed financial aid package with no loans for 4.5 years.