Thanksgiving came early for the Nicholas Academic Centers (NAC) as more than 300 inner-city high school students and their families celebrated their achievements last Friday.
NAC hosted a Thanksgiving Dinner event to honor students, as well as co-founder Henry T. Nicholas, III, Ph.D., and former CEO of Broadcom.
"The NACs succeed where others fail because we create a support system that includes students, staff, parents and high school counselors," said Mr. Nicholas, who established the first center in 2008 with retired Superior Court Judge Jack Mandel.
"It's a model that works," Nicholas said. "One hundred percent of our students go on to college, and we're going to ensure that every one of them earns a degree."
Santa Ana Mayor Pulido praised NAC for combining personal tutoring, cultural enrichment, social and family support for traditionally underserved high school students, including Hispanics.
"The Nicholas Academic Centers are profoundly changing education," said Mayor Pulido during the event. "At Broadcom, Dr. Nicholas used brilliance and drive as a pioneer in the technology industry. Now, in collaboration with Judge Mandel, he has created an inner-city program that rivals the achievements of the nation's best private schools."
California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez sent a statement of support from Washington, D.C. to the gathering at Valley High School and will speak to NAC students at a special event in Santa Ana on Dec. 10.
"Education is the foundation of opportunity and the basis of our country's future economic success," said Ms. Sanchez, a Democrat who represents the Orange County district where NAC resides. "The Nicholas Academic Centers produce dramatic results and provide a successful model for school districts around the country to follow."
According to NAC, 231 alumni currently are attending top colleges around the country, including Notre Dame, Georgetown, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and Smith College. Half of the students from the first NAC class are expected to graduate from college this year and 87% will graduate within five years.
NAC reports its students have earned more than $3 million in scholarships and financial aid. To date, 95% of graduates who went on to four-year colleges are still enrolled, according to NAC; this contrasts with nationwide sophomore retention rates for all students of less than 80%, and only 47% for Hispanics, according to the College Board.
In a statement, Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, Ph.D., Superintendent of the Santa Ana Unified School District, voiced her support for the NACs:
"We are fortunate to have many innovative partnerships in our district, and none more important than our work with the Nicholas Academic Centers," the Superintendent said. "The Centers have a profound impact on our students and demonstrate how we can work together to prepare all of our students to be college and career ready, and to assume their roles as part of the global citizenry."
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