Preparing students to succeed.
Growing up in the low-income community of City Heights in the 90s, Jose Cruz became accustomed to violence on the streets and the lack of community resources. It was not until he set foot on the San Diego State University campus as a first-generation college student that he realized things did not need to be this way.
“I learned that our conditions were products of broken systems and that systems were created by people. I went from someone who thought the world happened to them, to someone who could happen to the world,” Cruz tell Giving Back Magazine.
Cruz credits his mother’s push for him to succeed and the belief his mentors had in him for this transformative experience. Today, Cruz is a mentor to several other students as the Executive Director of Barrio Logan College Institute (BLCI), a nonprofit organization that prepares disadvantaged students to be the first in their families to enroll and succeed in college through after school programs that begin in third grade. In 20 years, 100% of BLCI high school graduates have enrolled in college. Students are expected to give back to the community throughout their time as students at BLCI. As an example, recently, their 5th grade students collected stuffed animals to take to the Ronald McDonald House.
In 2014, the organization established the Executive Director’s Leadership Council (EDLC) to teach high school students to address problems in their communities using leadership, management and fundraising skills. Last year, with the support of the Girard Foundation, six EDLC students impacted another 164 students in the community by inspiring them to go to college to become leaders.