LA-based nonprofit helps young people of color nationwide find success in high-impact careers

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Saturday, June 3, 2023
Nonprofit helps young people of color find success in careers
Thrive Scholars, a nonprofit founded in Los Angeles, helps young people of color nationwide find success in high-impact careers.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Smart children can be found anywhere, but knowing what to do with a sharp mind can be limited someone's surroundings.

Thrive Scholars was founded in 2001 in Los Angeles, and now helps young people of color across the country find success in high-impact careers. That journey begins well before college which is important because many Thrive Scholars will be the first in their family to seek a college degree.

Thrive Scholar Venezia Garza explains why that has such an impact, "We were limited by only what we were able to see and so that was one of the things that sort of blinded me to knowing what was truly, fully out there."

Garza is now a junior at Princeton and her dreams changed after a conversation with her college access manager from Thrive Scholars while she was a junior at Orange County School of the Arts.

"She helped me re-organize how I felt about my own sense of self, my own sense of personal confidence and believing that I did have a place in these schools and that I did deserve a place in these spaces," said Garza.

Thrive Scholars helps high-achieving, underrepresented students from economically disadvantaged communities get into and graduate top colleges.

Thrive began its summer Academy about 10 years ago to help juniors like Michael Zapata get college-level writing, math and science classes. It's over 300 hours of work set on campus at Amherst University.

Fiona Currie is only 12-years-old but she's graduating from Los Angeles City College with a 4.0 GPA and an associate's degree in studio arts.

"I've seen it on google but I've never been there and that's scary. They're going to be with 300 kids? So it's a lot but thrive is making sure that you are all set and comfortable and that your family is also comfortable with it as well," said Michael.

His mother Nancy Martinez adds, "I feel like I have somebody else helping me, like there's something I can lean on as opposed to just like, ok how am I going to do this."

Thomas Chang is the Executive Director of the Los Angeles office of Thrive Scholars and said the Summer Academy is more than intense academic training for high school students

"Many times it's their first time traveling alone. Many times it's the first time doing their laundry on their own. And it's really getting them prepared academically, emotionally and their maturity really does blossom. When they come out of it they are more than prepared to enter the hard level college curriculum and do well," said Chang.

Chang said about 25 thousand students nationwide fit the profile of Thrive Scholars, who start a six year program as high school juniors.

Students are helped with college access, success and development and graduate with little to no debt.

And Garza said that can have a generational effect, "The impact that Thrive is making is extending even beyond the scholars that go through the program because that's impacting their families, their younger brothers, their sisters, their neighbors who see them as they're going to college and changing the ways and what they think is possible."