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Nicholas Academic Centers celebrate milestones at Thanksgiving dinner

SANTA ANA – The Nicholas Academic Centers celebrated record student achievement this weekend at their fourth annual Thanksgiving Dinner event for more than 300 Santa Ana high school students and their families.

Broadcom Co-Founder Henry T. Nicholas, III and Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, hosted the event held Friday at Valley High. They both praised the "NAC Model"—a nurturing educational "family" that combines personal tutoring, cultural enrichment and social and family support for under-served high school students.

"The NACs succeed where others fail because we create a support system that includes students, staff, parents and high school counselors," said Dr. Nicholas, who established the first center in 2008 with retired Superior Court Judge Jack Mandel. "It's a model that works. One hundred percent of our students go on to college, and we're going to ensure that every one of them earns a degree."

Currently, 231 NAC alumni are attending top colleges around the country, such as Notre Dame, Georgetown, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and Smith College. Half of the students from the first NAC class are set to graduate from college this year and 87% will graduate within five years. Among Hispanic students nationally, only 13 percent finish college, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

NAC students have earned more than $3 million in scholarships and financial aid.

"The Nicholas Academic Centers are profoundly changing education," Pulido said. "At Broadcom, Dr. Nicholas used brilliance and drive as a pioneer in the technology industry. Now, in collaboration with Judge Mandel, he has created an inner-city program that rivals the achievements of the nation's best private schools."

In a statement, Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, Ph.D., Superintendent of the Santa Ana Unified School District, voiced her support for the NACs:

"We are fortunate to have many innovative partnerships in our district, and none more important than our work with the Nicholas Academic Centers," the Superintendent said. "The Centers have a profound impact on our students and demonstrate how we can work together to prepare all of our students to be college and career ready, and to assume their roles as part of the global citizenry."

At the dinner celebration, NAC alumna Ivonne Huitron, now a junior at UC Irvine, told attendees how the NAC "family" has changed her life.

To see a video of the dinner, click here.

"I don't know where I would have been if it were not for NAC," said Huitron, who is majoring in Public Health and thinking about going to medical school or being a teacher. "Now I'm in college and looking forward to a brighter future. From my heart, I am so grateful to everyone at the NAC."

Among other NAC milestones:

-The NAC's 100% college enrollment rate far exceeds the 72% of all California public school graduates who continue on to college. More dramatic is the comparison nationally with Hispanic high school graduates, of whom only 59.7% went directly to college in 2010, according to the NCES.

-To date, 95% of NAC graduates who went on to four-year colleges are still enrolled. This contrasts with nationwide sophomore retention rates for all students of less than 80%, and only 47% for Hispanics, according to the College Board.

-About 25 of NAC alumni now in college are benefiting from the California Dream Act, under which undocumented immigrant students can qualify for financial aid, and the federal Deferred Action program, which enables young, long-time immigrants to avoid deportation.

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