Why Lennox: A history of PSP’s 20-year partnership

March 21, 2017 in Articles by Dikla Tuchman

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.

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Ukiah scholars hit the slopes

March 21, 2017 in Articles by Dikla Tuchman

When initially mapping out the six years ahead of them, many mentors come up with a “must do” list with their scholars. For example, when mentors realize that many scholars have never taken a trip to the beach, a trip to the coast goes right up to the top of the list. For Ukiah mentor Kim Roth, a ski trip became a “must do” as soon as she found out very few PSP scholars had been to the mountains. “When we first sat down and thought through what they could do in the first two years of being in the program, I thought about things we did with our kids,” says Kim. “I said, ‘Have you guys ever been to the snow?’ and they said no. I just think it’s one of those things that everyone should experience.” So she started talking with fellow mentors and some of the scholars in Ukiah about what they thought of taking a ski trip over the winter. Two other mentors stepped up – Elizabeth DeVinny and Roseanne Ibarra – and eight scholars were on board, and with one of the snowiest winters upon them, the Ukiah group was ready to take on a weekend trip to Dodge Ridge.

Like with most PSP overnight trips, the idea behind the weekend excursion was to have the students experience something new, get out of their element, and challenge themselves. Planning for the trip began last summer. “Originally we had thought about going up to Tahoe, but it was too costly,” says Kim. “My son was working up at Dodge Ridge and I realized it was much more affordable. It was a way more family friendly ski place than Tahoe: There was no traffic, no crowd, and no waiting in long lines.” Dodge Ridge is just east of Sonora at Pinecrest, in Northern California’s High Sierra Mountains. The three mentors and eight scholars stayed in Sonora, about a 30 minute drive from the ski area. Going as a big group – a mixture of five eighth, two ninth and one tenth grader – the scholars were able to bond in the car, overnight at the hotel, and then on the ski slopes. “At the beginning they weren’t that talkative,” says Roseanne. “Within a couple hours, they were talking and laughing.

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PSP takes on leadership role in SoCal College Access Network

February 23, 2017 in Articles by Dikla Tuchman

This year, PSP, represented by Executive Director Lisa Ruben, is amongst 12 other leaders selected to sit on the SoCal CAN Steering Committee, the elected body made up of members from network organizations, which oversees ongoing strategic goals and work plan for the network. “By being on the Steering Committee, PSP can help guide the work of the network, ensuring that it continues to help us meet the needs of our scholars and mentors, along with supporting thousands more first generation students across LA County,” says Lisa.

For several years now, Partnership Scholars Program has been an active member in the Southern California College Access Network (SoCal CAN). The network was formed in 2005 as an alliance of over organizations working to promote a college-going and completion culture in Southern California. SoCal CAN now has 70 member organizations that meet quarterly to learn, collaborate, and advocate on issues facing first generation college students in the region.

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Going above and beyond

February 22, 2017 in Articles by Dikla Tuchman

Last semester’s grades are in and an impressive 48 scholars – nearly a quarter  of our current scholars – have attained a 4.0 or better GPA. These  students continue to show great determination and strive for the very best, working hard to keep their grades at the highest level. While PSP requires a minimum GPA of 3.0 throughout the six years in the program, we are proud that many of our scholars are striving to achieve more in order to reach their dreams of attending top universities in California and around the country.

Students like senior Daniela P. at Ukiah High School are highly self-motivated to achieve a 4.0. “I know that having a GPA above a 3.5 is good enough for me and everyone that’s watching, like my parents or PSP, but inside I get a great amount of satisfaction with myself,” says Daniela. “I try for a 4.0 as much as I can even though I know I won’t get it most of the time and it’s okay when I don’t because I know I tried my best. But when I do reach that goal it feels really good inside.” Like most PSP scholars, Ukiah High School junior Ivan R. will be the first in his family to go to college and is determined to do what his older brother could not. “When my brother was in high school, he wasn’t able to keep a 4.0 because of language difficulties,” says Ivan. “I’ve proven that I’m capable of that and raised the bar. I’m pretty proud that I’m the first one in my family to have done that.”

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PSP’s Program guru steps into new role

February 22, 2017 in Articles by Dikla Tuchman

There is next to no one more intimately familiar with the inner workings of Partnership Scholars Program than newly promoted Program & Operations Manager, Maria Hernandez. “Maria is deeply familiar with the students we serve and has dedicated herself to doing everything she can to help them succeed,” says Executive Director Lisa Ruben. “In this new role, Maria will be taking on a greater management role to make our student events, like the college tours and college retreat, as fun and informative as possible. She’ll also be helping us develop new programs that will help us better engage the families of our scholars.”

Going back to 1999, only three years after the program started, Maria began her journey with PSP as an inductee at Lennox Middle School. “I remember being terrified, because it was my first interview,” recalls Maria. But her fear quickly turned to sheer excitement when she was notified that she had made it into the program and would be benefitting from six years of mentorship, through her graduation from Animo Leadership Charter High School in 2005. “I was the happiest 7th grader in the world,” says Maria. “I told everybody…everyone who knew me heard about it.”

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Welcome Class of 2022!

January 25, 2017 in Articles by Dikla Tuchman

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This year, PSP welcomes 18 new scholars to the Partnership Scholars Program class of 2022.

Our new scholars are an inspiring class; each has a personal story that speaks of hope, motivation, courage and most of all, big dreams for the future. These new students are excited at the possibilities ahead with the support PSP will provide them throughout the next six years of their educational journey.

One student says, “An education that a majority of students take for granted is what I take very seriously.” Another says “I want to be successful and be able to help my family and be a good example to my younger siblings.” At El Monte’s induction ceremony held on January 18, incoming Charles T. Kraz Intermediate School 7th grader Derek M. acknowledged that it will be hard work, but he plans on attending Harvard University and becoming a child psychologist.

Over the last couple of months, students completed a rigorous application process that included responding to essay questions, providing letters of recommendation and, and, for the small pool of finalists, sitting through a panel interview. Every year, Partnership Scholars Program receives a tremendous number of qualified applications from bright, motivated young individuals in our program sites of Lennox, El Monte, Fort Bragg, and Ukiah. In Lennox alone, there were 70 applicants who were eager to be a part of this year’s PSP class. Each 7th grader who is admitted to our program demonstrates that they are committed to the six-year journey that will culminate in their attendance at an institution of higher education. Each of our new students has a mentor who will expose them to new cultural experiences and educational opportunities, helping them along the way to achieve their dreams.

We are excited and honored to help the class of 2022 as they explore the world and pursue their dreams!

PSP sponsors make it possible for each scholar to have a six-year scholarship that supports a wide range of cultural and academic activities with their mentors.

Thank you to the sponsors of the class of 2022!

Dr. Glenn Langer
Mr. Tom Turner
Oder Family Foundation
Dr. George Ferenczi & Dr. Miki Kalpins
Mr. and Mrs. Richard & Sue Masson
Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm & Sylvia Boyce

Scholars get the ‘Inside Scoop’ on college

January 24, 2017 in Articles by Dikla Tuchman

Throughout their six years in PSP, scholars are offered numerous opportunities to talk with their mentors about college: How to find the right fit, what it will be like, what they should be doing to prepare. Particularly in their junior and senior years of high school, scholars spend time visiting college campuses with their mentors, getting exposure to the college experience, and often meeting with current students. As students return from college visits, they often attribute the most valuable component to these experiences to hearing from current college students about what campus life is really like.

Even more imperative is being able to talk with former PSP scholars whose struggles as first generation, low-income students they can relate to. Recognizing that this experience can be essential for students to feel more comfortable and prepared for the transition to college, PSP’s Mendocino mentor Mina Cohen came up with the idea of holding a yearly event she called Inside Scoop.

PSP senior Carla A. has been attending the Inside Scoop event since she was in the 8th grade and believes hearing from PSP alumni is an invaluable experience while preparing for college. “Since I am a senior I take any form of advice on college very seriously, so going to the Inside Scoop, I really wanted to hear about the student’s campus life – from their hardships to the living situations – and get their honest opinion,” says Carla.

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New PSP mentor, Jesus Herrera

January 24, 2017 in Articles by Dikla Tuchman

One of Partnership Scholars Program’s newest mentors, Jesus Herrera, is not new to mentorship or to PSP. Jesus first became a part of PSP when he was inducted as a new 7th grade scholar at Lennox Middle School in 2004. Jesus remembers having a positive experience with the program as a student, saying he truly benefited from the many experiences PSP afforded him that he would not have had otherwise. Ten years later, while leading a tour for PSP scholars of his now alma mater USC, Jesus was urged by current Board Chair and mentor, Meg Sanchez, to come back to the program and mentor.

After a little over a year mentoring with PSP, Jesus finds he is reaping the benefits of being a mentor, bonding with his scholars. “I try to choose places that I haven’t been, that way both they and I get to learn and experience new things,” says Jesus. “For two of my scholars, they are older brothers. They haven’t said straight out, but it’s kind of like they see me more than just a mentor, but like an older brother or a father figure.”

All three are all in 10th grade, and he describes them as very energetic teenagers who pose the usual challenges. “For the most part they have the same school schedule, but they have different outside-of-school commitments,” says Jesus. “Communication issues are something a challenge; we’ve made some progress there. I’ve figured out times that work best and I’ve learned that it’s okay that at times only two of them can make it – or one.”

Jesus has set some goals for himself, as well as for his scholars.

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Spotlight on Ukiah’s leadership team

December 24, 2016 in Uncategorized by Dikla Tuchman

Jean Lincoln with former Ukiah scholar, Anakaren

Ten years ago, Partnership Scholars Program welcomed a small cohort of students to be the inaugural group in its second northern California location, in Ukiah. A small town about 60 miles inland from Mendocino, Ukiah is the seat of Mendocino County with a high population of low-income, minority families. With the help of the Ukiah Unified School District, PSP began working with five mentors and five students. One of those mentors included retired Mendocino College professor Jean Lincoln. In her first few years as a mentor, Jean worked closely with the program coordinator in Fort Bragg, until it became apparent that Ukiah needed to form its own leadership team. “I saw a lot of potential with the program, but it wasn’t clear where we were going,” says Jean. “We didn’t have a strong identity here in Ukiah. I wanted to have that.”

A few years later, Jean invited a friend of hers, Penny Walker, to become a mentor with PSP as well. Penny had recently retired and was a former instructor at Mendocino College. She saw a need to support students who would otherwise not be college-bound. “I realized that the students needed more support with their college applications and SATs and I wanted to be of better support in that way,” says Penny “Our local high school wasn’t doing anything about SAT prep, and I wasn’t really thrilled with what was available to the kids. I started worrying about their ability to handle applying to private schools.”

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PSP seniors finish out their college applications

December 23, 2016 in Uncategorized by Dikla Tuchman

For high school seniors, this time of the year is jam-packed with semester finals and college application deadlines. PSP seniors have their sights set on the finish line for the latter, with California State University (Cal State) and University of California (UC) applications in and many private school application deadlines coming soon. Last year, PSP’s 44 seniors sent in 145 UC applications, 105 CSU applications, and 60 private school applications. While some seniors feel the pressure, PSP scholars express feelings of relief at having been well prepared and organized, thanks to help from the program and their mentors.

Mendocino High School senior Thae S. is currently completing his Common Application to submit for Northeastern University, Loyola Marymount University, USC, Boston College and Stanford, as well as another independent application for University of Maryland. He has already applied to a number of public universities in California. He, along with other seniors, is applying to several out-of-state private schools due to college visits to the east coast with PSP.

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