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Summer / Fall 2016

A Full Summer for NAI Scholars

The summer was full and productive for the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative. Soon after the last day of the school year, NAI’s rising seniors kicked off their summer with NAI senior week. Here, they previewed the upcoming school year, signed up for mentors, began drafting their personal statements and strategized how to tackle deadlines and keep up with all of the important dates ahead.


Underclassmen stayed busy, too. With a course catalog that included music, theater, ocean science, and art, our scholars had plenty from which to choose. In addition to the classes, the scholars also went on field trips; they attended Dodger’s games, snorkeled in Catalina Island and went on a few college tours, for good measure. The summer allows NAI scholars to expand their cultural capital via an assortment of experiences, designed to expose them to something new, or, to more deeply explore a nascent area of interest. 


Take a look at some of the photos our team collected throughout the summer of 2016.




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USC NAI Kicks Off Monday-Friday Instruction at the USC Health Science Campus

It is hard to believe that the original group of 6th graders who began with the USC NAI program at the Health Sciences Campus are now high school freshmen! Meeting at the university campus daily is a key program feature that begins in the 9th grade for all NAI scholars. Situating the high school students on a college campus allows them to learn how to navigate that setting, how to interact with college students and professors, and it helps them fine-tune their sMSBWelcomeense of agency.

For the 3 years between 6th and 9th grade the NAI team brainstormed and plotted how the NAI model would transfer to the Health Science Campus considering its sprawling layout. What the NAI team knew, however, was that the campus setting was integral to the program. 

The perfect space to house our Monday-Friday instruction came in the way of the Center for Health Professions (CHP), which is also home to our 8th and 9th graders for Saturday Academy. Our English teacher, Ms. Almanza from Wilson High School and Mr. Luu, from Lincoln High School, who teaches Geometry, travel each morning to the CHP building to teach our scholars. The scholars are living up to the high expectations set by the program. They show up on time and with the self-confidence that is markedly that of an NAI scholar.

Mark Hamill Makes an Out of this World Gift to the NAI Program

Hamill Gift


On July 14th, longtime NAI supporter Mark Hamill elected USC NAI as his charity of choice to receive a £5,000 (about $6,500 US) donation from the Forever Hope Foundation. Thank you, Mark and Marilou Hamill and may the force remain with you!

The Magic of Bringing Dickens to His Newest Readers 
by: Jacqueline Barrios


The NAI-Foshay contingency, NAI educators Jacqueline Barrios and Paul David Story, with Kenia Coyoy (NAI Alumni), Kimberly Mejia and Mauricio Garcia (NAI Alumni and winners of this year's NAI-DP Scholarship Contest) just returned from the Dickens Universe 2016, a week long conference at UC Santa Cruz. Needless to say, the students were riveting and the team was well received by the scholars, university faculty and general public—over 200 participants— in one of the largest, and oldest, humanities multi-campus research consortiums in the world. Focusing on Dombey & Son, this year's program featured printed excerpts of only 4 individuals’ papers on the novel. These individuals were the NAI scholars and Foshay HS winners of the Dickens Project-NAI HS scholarship competition. Student papers incited conversations, found their way among possible topics for seminars, had organic tie-ins to conference talks. The titles of this year's winning papers are as follows: 

Mauricio Garcia - Ebb and Flow: Water, Loss and the Human in Dickens' Dombey and Son, focusing on the motif of water in the novel as a critique of modernity by foregrounding human loss (Will be attending Harvard University) 

Kimberly Mejia -  (Un)Happy Homes: Disrupting the Domestic in Dickens’ Dombey and Son, examining the possibilities of change presented in the unstable home space (Will be attending USC) 

Amber Johnston Mobile Properties: Feminizing Movement in Dombey and Son, examining how reversals in mobility reflect changing gender norms (Will be attending USC) 

Georgia Delgado Saving the Father: Empathy, Critique and the Victorian Patriarchy in Dickens’ Dombey and Son, examining the ways Dombey’s characterization invites readerly sympathy and institutional critique (Will be attending USC) 

Some stories and the beginnings of a manifesto?
A graduate student expressed how the quality and clarity of each sentence of student writing impressed her and in some ways, exceeded the quality of the writing produced by the scholars of the university. A faculty member expressed how she uses the NAI documentary to motivate her own college students to tackle lengthy novels, citing how the video silenced any complaints and thus supported her in cultivating rigorous aims for her students. Participants gave feedback about NAI scholars’ performance discussion, reporting that NAI scholars’ level of engagement and receptivity to study exceeded the typical undergraduate performance The NAI presentation/conversations uniquely brought “magic” to the Dickens Universe participants’ experience of the conference, as emotional connection to the NAI scholar’s learning brings immediate relevant, authentic and affective engagement for all participants at all levels of scholarship. The DP-NAI partnership is a fruitful “staging ground” for conversations around, and a “laboratory” for actions to address, the shrinking “pipeline” of young people interested in and passionate about the humanities. Many scholars are in fact already thinking about that pipeline, and are imagining ways their scholarship engages, directly or not, the need to more make "openings" in the field. NAI scholars burgeoning interest in, and growing exposure to the humanities directly confronts the conflict between scholarship and public engagement, and serves as a unique, unprecedented model for how the object of study, be it the Victorian novel or any other focus of academic research, can reach the underrepresented student that NAI’s work daily touches. In other words, the NAI scholar not only heightens the rigor of the academic discourse, but imparts singularity and deepens implications for learning. Their presence in spaces of higher education not only literalizes the possibilities of college access (their very attendance symbolizes the reality of first generation achievement) but renders the abstract values of diversity, inclusion and humanism tangible, embodied, relational, and thus, inspirational.

Karen Ammons Retires

On July 1st the USC NAI program bid farewell to Ms. Karen Ammons, NAI’s program manager and college access and success counselor who served the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative for 17 years and the University of Southern California for 35 years! Her farewell celebration was an emotional one as current and former students shared the impact that Ms. Ammons had on their lives.

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NAI Alumna Featured in USC News


NAI’s own, Sydney Turner’s, journey to USC via the NAI program was highlighted by USC News on August 18th. Click on the link to check out her story:

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