Over 20 years ago, Lennox Middle School (LMS) was engaged in a partnership with UCLA and the Howard Hughes Corporation. Though this partnership, Dr. Glenn Langer, Head of Cardiology at the UCLA Medical School, started volunteering at Lennox School District. He was impressed by the bright, motivated students at LMS and almost equally astonished to find out that a number of those students had not been out of that 1.3 square mile community. Dr. Langer noted that “progression of a student through high school to graduation was problematic; entry to a four-year college, a rarity. Many of the students had never travelled outside the district in their lives!” After all, the ocean is only a couple of miles away, yet many students had never seen it. “This Depression kid immediately identified with these twelve- to thirteen-year-olds,” said Dr. Langer.
Using the LMS-UCLA-Howard Hughes partnership as a springboard, Dr. Langer came to the principal and vice principal of LMS and pitched an idea for a scholarship program to assist students who showed academic promise. The partnership had the following goal: That motivated but economically and culturally disadvantaged students are not limited by their environment but are assured of progressing to a level determined only by their own considerable talents to the end that they will be competitive for entry into four-year colleges with scholarship aid. “That first year, we interviewed about 75 kids and out of those, picked seven to be in the program,” says Meg Sanchez, then LMS assistant-principal and current PSP Board Chair. “Once those kids finished at LMS, those students were sent to a private high school in Playa del Ray in order to keep them on track, in lieu of keeping them with mentors through high school.” Proving far too costly, the private school component was done away with and replaced with mentorship through high school.