NAI Teams Up With USC Rossier for Summer School Math Academy

The USC Leslie and William McMorrow Neighborhood Academic Initiative kicked off in September 2018 with a red carpet event.
(Photo/USC, David Sprague)

By Ellen Evaristo

This summer, in partnership with USC Rossier, students enrolled in the USC Leslie and William McMorrow Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) will participate in the launch of the Summer School Math Academy for eighth graders transitioning to ninth grade.

In the academy, which was developed by USC Rossier Professor of Clinical Education Angela Laila Hasan and Jared Dupree EdD ’13, senior director of the Office of the Superintendent at Los Angeles Unified School District, students will spend five weeks on the USC campus immersed in math with educators from a range of area universities. The academy will extend into the school year with Saturday follow-ups each month for students and families.

Established in 1990, the seven-year, precollege NAI program prepares students from South and East Los Angeles for admission to a college or university. Applicants from the program’s 35 partner schools must have teacher recommendations, live in the neighborhoods their schools serve and be in good academic standing.

Students apply to the program in fifth grade; those accepted attend Saturday academy sessions at USC’s University Park campus while parents attend the Family Development Institute, a 360-degree, hands-on approach to reinforcing student academic goals and study habits and maximizing a healthy home environment. With 1,320 total graduates since its inaugural class, NAI has a 100 percent rate for high school graduation and a 99 percent college acceptance rate since 1997.

“It is so smart to get students early on, and especially in middle school,” Hasan said, who focuses on implementing research-based parent-involvement programs across urban schools. While a student may have good grades, she said, the honing of study skills and exposure to a campus environment can add to their college pursuit. In particular, math-proficiency support is needed in urban schools as students transition to high school, Hasan said.

Luis Campa ’02, a full-scholarship recipient in NAI’s second graduating class, earned his BA in psychology from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, Campa felt his on-campus experience through NAI added to his motivation to attend college.

“It’s just a fence, not a barrier,” said Campa, who serves on the NAI Board of Councilors and is the founder and president of the program’s alumni association. “My biggest takeaway from NAI was access. The program is going to open their eyes. Students will ask themselves, ‘What’s my next goal? What’s my next one?’”

The new summer academy is just one of several collaborations in the works between the NAI and USC Rossier. Others include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s first-ever U.S. Education Grand Challenge, which will include math games for middle schoolers that will be led by high school students; Students as Superheroes Using STEM Skills to Alter History, which is scheduled to launch in the fall for fourth and fifth graders; and Reading Beyond Words, a program for K–3 students that begins in June. USC Rossier MAT Teacher Prep Residency students will also teach in schools where the NAI already operates.

“Our students are a very large presence in the neighborhoods surrounding our campuses,” USC President Carol L. Folt said in her convocation this spring. “When you treat your neighbors as friends, you can build the kind of society that we want.”

USC provides more than 100 community programs serving local families and students living near our campuses, including USC Good Neighbors, Trojan Shop Local and USC School for Early Childhood Education (Head Start).