Thousands of high school students have big dreams of going to college. But for many of them, paying for it is the dealbreaker.
"I'm just trying to get the highest GPA possible and go to a good college and succeed in general," said high school junior Samajay Mani.
The Cash for College Convention is coordinated by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the city of Los Angeles, along with various other partners, to help students and their families' access financial aid and pursue their college and career dreams.
"Every year we have a new entering freshman class that just doesn't know how to access the information, doesn't know what's available to them, and worse yet, they're making decisions about their college future with the assumption that nothing is available to them, and we're here to tell them otherwise," said Alma Salazar, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce Vice President and regional coordinator of L.A. Cash for College.
The Cash for College Convention is being held Wednesday and Thursday at the Los Angeles Convention Center. On Wednesday night, 30 students will be randomly selected for $1,000 scholarships.
Cal State Dominguez Hills marketing major Sofia Rivas is one of the students who benefited from the program. She was awarded a scholarship for undocumented students.
Now, she's dedicated to helping other students get access to financial aid.
"I knew about public scholarships, but they require you to be a citizen, so I couldn't apply," said Rivas. "But then I found out that there are other places that you can go."
At the convention, students have a chance to talk to college recruiters, financial aid counselors and employers to ask those one-on-one questions they might be confused about.
"A lot of students are first generation, a lot of students who come from families where they never thought this was an option," said Marjani Chidinma, recruitment specialist at Cal State Los Angeles. "To be able to speak to those students, to let them know this is a great opportunity, you can do this, you have the foundation. That's beyond words."
Since the program began 11 years ago, organizers say students have received about $37 million in state and federal financial aid.