Success Within Reach
The University of La Verne’s REACH Summer Camp introduces disadvantaged high schoolers to business skills and inspires them to pursue a college education.
November 13, 2018
Gabriela Landin was homeless and had no plans for her future when a counselor at Fremont Academy of Engineering and Design in Pomona, California encouraged her to apply to the University of La Verne’s REACH Summer Business Camp.
She took the advice, if for no other reason than to have a place to stay for three weeks. But the residential camp, which introduces disadvantaged high school juniors to college life, gave her much more than a temporary shelter.
“It helped me realize that I did want to go to college, and I wanted to go into the business field,” Landin said. “And later, it helped me realize that I wanted to go to the University of La Verne.”
That was two years ago. Today, Landin attends La Verne and is giving back as a REACH counselor, guiding other students through the program that changed her life.
REACH, which just completed its 13th year, has served more than 700 students like Landin since it began in 2006. Each summer, they live on the La Verne campus, take business and management courses, go on field trips, and build skills for the college application process.
The program serves about 60 students from Southern California per year. Ninety-eight percent go on to college. About 86 percent graduate.
“It’s a remarkable transition,” said Dr. Issam Ghazzawi, professor in the University of La Verne’s College of Business and Public Management (CBPM) and REACH advisor. “When they first get here, many of them don’t have a good idea of what universities are like because they are the first in their families to think about going to college.”
REACH is supported by CBPM and community partners such as U.S. Bank, Walmart, Southern California Edison, the Metropolitan Water District, and the Pomona Unified School District (PUSD).
Dr. Roberta Perlman, president of PUSD’s board of trustees, called the program “transformational” for her students.
“Students gain tremendous confidence and are ultimately able to eloquently communicate a business plan to fellow students and audience members,” she said. “Our REACH students come back for their senior year of high school with a new perspective on education and with renewed goals for success.”
Pomona High School student Brandon Rivas, who plans to major in international business management, participated in REACH this summer. It helped him understand the nuances of teamwork and polish his public speaking and presentation skills.
“The program overall changed my attitude toward life,” he said. “It helped me grow not only as a student, but also as a person.”
In addition to faculty members, executives with business-related backgrounds serve as instructors and guest speakers. They help students develop concepts for virtual businesses, which include the development of business plans.
Mark Lefkowitz, a land developer and creator of The Lemonade Game, which helps to teach financial literacy, is one such instructor.
When he first got involved, Lefkowitz thought he might have to oversimplify his lessons on gross and net pro t margins, return on equity, and other sophisticated business concepts.
“But, I found that students were engaged, they were excited, and they wanted more,” Lefkowitz said. “Seeing their transformation was simply exhilarating. Watching the students collaborate to create fantastic projects just blew me away. The results have been awesome.”
Kyle Webb, chief financial officer of Webb Family Enterprises, which operates 17 McDonald’s restaurants throughout Southern California, is a member of the REACH Advisory Board. He and his family are longtime supporters of the program, and their company, which aims to increase opportunities for people from disadvantaged or underrepresented backgrounds, offers all REACH participants jobs at the end of the camp.
“The participants are awesomely engaged,” Webb said. “Their questions about our business are also more informed. Once they are in the program, they are more likely to look at the business side of our enterprise, which is amazing for us.”
Kimberly Robledo, a former PUSD student and REACH alumna, is currently a junior at University of California, Berkeley, majoring in economics with a minor in education and public policy. She credited her REACH professors and volunteers for their commitment to student success.
“The program made me see myself in a place where I previously thought people like me did not belong,” Robledo said. “I now see myself reaching my dreams to end my family’s poverty, and I have the strength I need to impact others through my education.”