NORTHRIDGE, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- It was a night of celebration for high school graduates in Northridge who are setting off for college in the fall.
Those students are well prepared for college thanks to Project Grad L.A., a nonprofit college prep program for students in San Fernando, Symlar and Arleta.
"I'm going to CSUN to study criminal justice. This night means a lot to me to see how the program supports and recognizes the people doing the hard work," Adrian Rodriguez said.
Project Grad helps students get ready academically for college starting in sixth grade. In high school, those students receive help with the application process. The advisors work closely with the students, which is attention many of them would not get at their schools.
Ford Roosevelt is the president of Project Grad L.A.
"Too many kids face all the barriers they already face in getting into college, even finishing high school. So where we can add value is to help raise awareness and aspirations for students," he said.
In this year's class of 258 Project Grad scholars, 90 percent of them are the first ones to go to college in their families.
"We're celebrating because this wasn't expected of us, but somebody believed that we could and so we did," Jessica Pelayo said.
Jessica will attend UC Santa Cruz, but she's already taken three college courses locally with help from summer programs offered through Project Grad.
"Having three college course already in my pocket before going to college so I can get a feel - that's something not a lot of kids from my community get," she said.
She added she's made her mother proud, who was one of the many parents in the audience praising their children's accomplishments and the program that led them every step of the way.
Many students 1st in family to go to college thanks to Project Grad LA