This past July, an incredible opportunity that started as a conversation, became an exciting reality for two of our Generation 1st Degree – Pico Rivera students. The #BeatingTheOddsSummit, a coming together of students who will be heading to college this fall despite all manner of challenges including homelessness and disabilities, was an invitation that came to us by way of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher/ Better Make Room initiative. The goal of the summit was to bring the students together in order to share encouragement and strategies to pave the way to their success in college. It is a known fact that getting our youth to enroll in college is only the start of the real work; we need to ensure that they have the tools and infrastructure to complete their degrees in the shortest time possible. One key tool, creating a network, was the experience at the heart of the summit that we are encouraging our students to replicate on their college campuses come September.

For Biane Arias and Karen Lopez, the experience was life changing. They saw first-hand that they are, despite whatever challenges they faced on the route to college, not alone. They also experienced the power of coming together, sharing experiences and connecting with mentors such as our First Lady.

For Jacki and I, the experience really brought us closer to the community and showed that we are truly committed to our mission and to these young people. What the community might not know is that commitment goes beyond getting the students to college. We continue to leverage our connections and resources in order to give our students opportunities that they may never have received.

We look forward to continuing to offer these types of experiences to our students as we know how valuable this type of exposure can be. We hope you will join us in making these and other opportunities a reality.