“Empower YOU Through L.I.F.T.” A Virtual College Readiness Program

The Robert and Susan Kozlowski L.I.F.T. Foundation has always had a mission to provide students with equitable opportunities. During these unprecedented times of a global pandemic, with schools closed, students in underserved communities have struggled for access more than ever before.  What could WE do to assist?  Students still would be graduating from high school, with hopes of going to the colleges and universities of their dreams. Students no longer had easy access to College Center resources, nor resources of a Writing Center for help on college applications and essays. Students are facing stress beyond the everyday stress they feel regularly and are challenged to address mental wellness. So…we got to work!

An 18-session curriculum was developed, building on a successful summer program we have been providing at Valor High School for the past five years when they were in Panorama City, CA. “Empower YOU Through L.I.F.T.” is uniquely successful because it is taught by L.I.F.T. Scholars who are successfully matriculating through colleges or have recently graduated and come from similar communities as these student participants.  With a rich curriculum of content and enrichment, having relatable, empathetic, professional L.I.F.T. Scholars as mentor/leaders allowed students to truly process and believe they too can achieve their dreams. L.I.F.T. Scholars Mayeena Ulkarim, Yetnaleci Maya, Noe Torres, Edward Saloj, Keary Mendoza, Jackie DeLeon, Saori Tejada, Jesus Saldivar-Mancillas, Claudia Jorge and Diana Torres not only facilitated the program, but enriched the curriculum every day!

As a pilot program taught remotely, the program was offered at Bright Star High Schools in the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles metropolitan areas.  Rise Kohyang High School, Los Angeles, Bright Star Secondary Charter Academy, Los Angeles, and Valor Academy High School, North Hills students volunteered to participate in “Empower YOU Through L.I.F.T.”  which was brought to them via Zoom from June 29, 2020 – August 7, 2020. We were so honored and thrilled that close to 100 students signed up for the course and some ninety percent of those signing up missed fewer than two classes.

The 18-session program were hour long classes that met Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, just as a college course would meet. The sessions included everything from helping STUDENTS learning more about themselves so they could apply to colleges that best fit who each student was as an individual, which means also learning about the wide range of college options, including vocational schools, community colleges, state colleges, universities, and private institutions.

STUDENTS learned how to maneuver through the complicated financial aid applications and DACA paperwork. STUDENTS worked on writing college essays (PIQ’s) and filling out college applications. STUDENTS practiced interview skills actually meeting one-on-one to do mock interviews. STUDENTS learned about scholarship opportunities. Each STUDENT met with L.I.F.T. Scholars in individual sessions to get a more personal critique at times. Graduate and present L.I.F.T. Scholars volunteered to participated in a COLLEGE DAY PANEL sharing with STUDENTS about their own experiences applying to college and attending.

Graduate L.I.F.T. Scholars from Indiana and California were panelist for the CAREER DAY PANEL now in their wide range of careers.  The experience was extremely motivating as to what is possible!  We also had “Wellness Wednesday” sessions to be sure STUDENTS are staying healthy emotionally during these challenging and historic times, sharing/practicing tools for emotional well-being, as well as the emotional supports available at college. 

We look forward to expanding “Empower YOU Through L.I.F.T.” in 2021 to include high schools in Los Angeles that do not have College Centers or high schools knowing their students would benefit from the goal of equitable opportunity for those in high schools in underserved communities. A special thank you to all the L.I.F.T. Scholars who continue to pass it forward and were mentor/leaders and/or panelists for “Empower YOU Through L.I.F.T.” Without YOU the program could not succeed!  

*** DONATE TO “Empower YOU Through L.I.F.T.”!

The Robert and Susan Kozlowski L.I.F.T. Foundation will be able to:

  • offer virtual college readiness program at more high schools in Los Angeles
  • offer virtual college readiness program at more high schools in California
  • offer part-time job opportunities to first generation college students as mentors/leaders of “Empower YOU Through L.I.F.T”