MEDIA ADVISORY: East Los Angeles sixth-graders, parents gather for launch of USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative Saturday Academy program

January 17, 2014

On-site Media Contact: Leslie Ridgeway at (213) 200-8015, or


A launch event for the University of Southern California (USC) Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) Saturday Academy, expanding for the first time in its history to include nearly 100 sixth graders near the USC Health Sciences Campus in East Los Angeles.

Saturday, Jan. 18
9 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

USC Galen Center
3400 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Parking for news vans is available at north end of Galen Center, on Jefferson Street. Parking is also available at parking lot 2, located at Flower and Exposition. (Lot is marked PS2 on map.)

• Kim Thomas-Barrios, executive director, USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative
 Lizette Zarate, curriculum and instruction specialist, USC NAI
• Isabel Duenas, USC Health Sciences Campus program manager, USC NAI
• Tracy Underwood, national manager, philanthropy and community affairs, Toyota
• Kathy Mota, community engagement specialist, Toyota
• Hiram Sims,  USC NAI graduate
• More than 100 NAI alumni
• More than 2,000 students and parents, including 91 students from the USC Health Sciences Campus cohort and their parents

The USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) is a seven-year enrichment program preparing low-income, minority students living in neighborhoods surrounding USC’s campuses for success at a college or university. After weeks of orientation sessions, the Saturday, Jan. 18, launch event is intended to give students and parents an inspiring send-off into their new educational journey and a chance to meet with NAI alumni. NAI alumni will speak to the students about their experience with the NAI and how it has helped them succeed in higher education, and NAI program leaders will give a brief overview of the program.

In August, the NAI was expanded to two schools near USC’s Health Sciences Campus. Sixty-six sixth-graders at Murchison Elementary School and another 35 from nearby El Sereno Middle School will attend Saturday NAI classes, tutoring and other workshops on the USC Health Sciences Campus in Boyle Heights. The program will eventually be extended to serve about 600 students from sixth through 12th grade from neighborhoods surrounding USC Health Sciences. Since the NAI was established in 1989, 745 Southern Los Angeles students have graduated from the program and gone to college.

Upon entering USC NAI, the sixth-graders and their parents pledge that the children will attend full-day classes on most Saturdays at USC until high school graduation, as well as intensive math and English classes before and after school in high school.

Students who are later accepted to USC are rewarded with a 4.5-year full tuition scholarship. USC NAI graduates also have gone on to attend Yale University, Brown University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California at Berkeley, Stanford University and Morehouse College, among many others.

Initial funding to launch the expansion comes from the Gilbert Foundation with the majority of the costs paid for by USC.



Keck Medicine of USC is the University of Southern California’s medical enterprise, one of only two university-owned academic medical centers in the Los Angeles area. Encompassing academic, research and clinical entities, it consists of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, one of the top medical schools in Southern California; the renowned USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the first comprehensive cancer centers established in the United States; the USC Care faculty practice; the Keck Medical Center of USC, which includes two acute care hospitals: 411-bed Keck Hospital of USC and 60-bed USC Norris Cancer Hospital; and USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, a 158-bed community hospital. It also includes outpatient facilities in Beverly Hills, downtown Los Angeles, La Cañada Flintridge, Pasadena, and the USC University Park campus. Some Keck School of Medicine faculty also have practices throughout Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.