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Growing up in the small city of Maywood, in southeast Los Angeles County, which is ninety-nine percent Hispanic Latino and 1.18 square miles, Jason was all too familiar with poverty and dreams burnt out before graduating even high school.  Jason was determined not to be one of those statistics. “Ever since I began school, my life has consisted of an unyielding routine marked by hard work and resilience against the grueling, yet tempting lifestyles that surrounded me.”  Dreaming of a college education for their eldest son, Jason has a family who believes in him.  He thrived academically, graduating at the top of his class at a private Catholic high school, where he also excelled at baseball.  Baseball was going to be his way of paying for college.  When acceptance letters started coming in, Jason felt he could not dare dream of an acceptance letter from U.C.L.A.  That letter arrived the day he was honored to take his mother to the Mother – Son dance at his high school.  As the last dance began, he had his Mother open the acceptance letter.  Dreams do come true.

How to pay for college became a challenge. “…The slice of luxury which I earned through my hard work as a student my entire life…my finances still live on the same streets of poverty and despair that I walked everyday during my childhood…. my small home is still overcrowded and under resourced, and because of rising tuition rates, paychecks are even tighter and more impossible to stretch…”  Jason has three younger siblings and a Grandmother in his seven member immediate family.  He has shared a couch in the living space with his brother for years, as his mother and father work to provide for the family.  But U.C.L.A. was his calling, so he gave up a baseball scholarship from a less academically recognized school and started his journey the fall of 2015.  Loans added up quickly, even though he also worked to help with expenses.  “In my time at U.C.L.A., I have understood the value of higher education and its power to propel you past the circumstances, however, I also have first hand insight into how difficult it is to thrive as a first-generation college student with the burden of other desperate and underprivileged lives to carry on your shoulders.”

The summer of 2017 the L.I.F.T. Foundation heard about Jason’s journey and Mrs. Kozlowski met a special young man.  For the first time in the Foundation’s history Jason was selected as a L.I.F.T. Scholar as he entered his junior year.  There will be no need to take out additional loans. He will be enriched by his new L.I.F.T. family and is sure to impact his fellow peer L.I.F.T. Scholars.  Jason is committed to giving back to the community he has called home his entire life and lift his family out of the poverty at their front door, as he excels in International Development and Chicano Studies “…successfully becoming the first in his family to not only attend college but thrive and achieve my freedom for tomorrow”.