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JPMorgan Chase Graduates the First Class of The Fellowship Initiative in Los Angeles
By Sentinel News Service
Published May 4, 2017

JPMorgan Chase CEO and Chairman Jamie Dimon and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti celebrated the graduation of the first class of The Fellowship Initiative in Los Angeles April 30, a JPMorgan Chase college-access program for young men of color that provides academic, leadership, mentoring and experiential learning opportunities for students in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

On Sunday, JPMorgan Chase also announced the launch of the second class of The Fellowship Initiative (TFI) this fall in Los Angeles. The 45 new fellows will be announced later in 2017.

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For three years, 40 high school boys from local high schools including Crenshaw High School, Artesia High, King Drew High and View Park Prep have spent three Saturdays a month at the JPMorgan Chase downtown offices to develop the knowledge, skills and networks needed to complete high school and succeed in college and beyond.

The program saw great results:

o 100% of the fellows who completed the pilot program will graduate from high-school on time

o 36 have gained admission to four-year colleges. The remaining four are waiting for acceptance letters.

o One student was admitted to six Ivy League schools

o About 70% of the Fellows were the first in their family to attend college

Dimon, who traveled to Los Angeles to meet the fellows, was delighted with their success.

“We launched TFI because we wanted to help improve outcomes for young men of color by giving them greater access to opportunity,” he said. “Too many young people in our cities aren’t graduating from high school. Businesses have a responsibility to help. You can’t operate in a community and not participate. We have learned that the right combination of exposure, including intensive academic, mentoring and leadership training, can help.”

TFI was life changing for many of the students, some of whom had never left Los Angeles. Last summer, the boys traveled to South Africa and stood in the jail cell of Nelson Mandela. In 2015, they went on an Outward Bound camping trip in Northern California, hiking over mountains and cooking over fires. They traveled to Sacramento and met state legislators. They met a Hollywood producer and dancers from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

“TFI was so much more than I expected,” said Chuck Uzoegwu, a senior at King Drew High School who has been accepted to six Ivy League Schools: U Penn, Cornel, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown and Princeton.

“When I started the program, I had good grades already,” he said. “But I didn’t have a lot of experience visiting colleges or meeting new people. I had never backpacked, kayaked or rock climbed. I never expected to go to Africa. Standing in Nelson Mandela’s jail cell gave me a greater level of appreciation of what I have. The trials I may face now are nothing. My goal is to work as a computer programmer at a major tech company. I’d also like to launch a start-up.”

Jose Padua, a senior at Artesia High School, was also changed by the program. “My parents are from the Philippines,” he said. “They didn’t understand the American school system and I didn’t know how to transition to college.”

After visiting numerous colleges and experiencing the Outward Bound and South Africa trips, Padua feels more confident. “We had to walk for 10 days in the woods, carrying a backpack. We ate fried baloney, mac and cheese with chili from a can and pita bread with tomato paste,” he said. “There were no showers and we had to put bleach in our drinking water to kill the bacteria. But I did it!

“In South Africa, I thought it was freezing. I had on three jackets that first day. I’ve never been anywhere that cold. It was 20 degrees. We went on safari and I saw elk, hyenas and giraffes up close. The whole experience changed me. “

Padua said he’s ready now for college. He’s been accepted to a number of schools, including UC Berkley and UCLA. He said, “I hope to become a nurse and then eventually a doctor.”

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