Nicholas Academic Centers Launches 204 Students From Disadvantaged Backgrounds to Prestigious Universities

SANTA ANA, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Surrounded by her best friends at her track and field meet, Santa Ana High School senior Mia Gonzalez opened up an email from Columbia University. She shrieked with joy as she clicked on the button that played Columbia’s song, which meant that her long-shot college had accepted her. This moment was a culmination of everything – starting high school online during the pandemic, wearing multiple hats at her family restaurant (cashier, marketer, “lawyer”) while juggling a full load of Advanced Placement classes, caretaking her beloved grandmother before she died of cancer, and participating in two internships, including a post-doctoral biology research at the California Institute of Technology. In April, before she accepted the opportunity to attend Columbia on a full scholarship, she traveled to its storied campus located in Manhattan. As she stared at its auspicious building with a dome and columns, she felt her grandmother’s mantra in her soul – break the cycle of illiteracy and poverty. To pay tribute to her grandmother, Gonzalez will study biology to become a doctor who helps underserved communities.

Fellow Nicholas Academic Center (NAC) graduates Stephanie Sanchez and Cristian Garcia will attend the University of Notre Dame and the University of California, Irvine, respectively. Both scholars aim to become immigration attorneys to represent the voiceless in their community. Sanchez juggled two academic internships while designing and selling tumblers every weekend at a swap meet with her father. Garcia, who lost his father at age four, channeled his pain to become a leader for his brother and younger students.

On June 8, 2024, Broadcom Cofounder Dr. Henry T. Nicholas III hosted the NAC, elected officials, and community members at the 16th annual NAC graduation ceremony to celebrate the tremendous achievements of the 204-member Class of 2024, who will advance to prestigious colleges, receiving 1,772 college acceptances. The NAC provides highly qualified staff, academic assistance and tutoring, social services, cultural enrichment programs, college access and support services, and need-based scholarship opportunities for students.

I am humbled to have been an investor in these NAC graduates who are 94 percent Hispanic/Latino, with 94 percent being the first in their family to attend college. The NAC launched them to elite colleges. but they are coming back and making a difference in their families and communities,” said Dr. Henry T. Nicholas III, the cofounder and principal benefactor of the NAC.

The NAC is generously funded by the Henry T. Nicholas III Education Foundation and was founded by Dr. Nicholas and Retired Superior Court Judge Jack Mandel in 2007. Dr. Nicholas has donated $51.3 million to support the three NAC locations in downtown Santa Ana, Valley High School, and Century High School.

16th Annual NAC Booklet

Press Packet

NAC Highlights:

«These NAC scholars, who are mostly first-generation college students and from immigrant communities, started their freshman year online during the pandemic. As seniors, they faced new Free Application for Federal Student Aid rules. This meant they had to make the best-informed decision on their college choice and wait to submit acceptances at the deadline. They thrived despite all these challenges and remained resilient,» said Rodolfo Duarte, Executive Director of the NAC and a fellow NAC alumnus.


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