USC Program Helps Low-Income Students Prepare for College

It's the kind of success that Ann O'Leary would like to see replicated nationwide. O'Leary heads up the Children and Families Program at the Next Generation, a non-profit think tank based in California. The group is launching a national initiative called "Too Small to Fail," a campaign to get the government and private industry to focus on the needs of America's children. O'Leary points out that nearly 22 percent of children in the U.S. live in poverty, compared to 10 percent of seniors. "That's because we made a very big and important commitment to seniors," she said, "and we haven't made the same commitment to kids. We think it's time we did."

O'Leary and Alfa and Thomas-Barrio's went to Washington, D.C., to try to jump start that effort as part of this one-day summit, hosted by Next Generation and Washington Post Live. "It makes no sense not to invest in the next generation," said O'Leary. "The way we've done it right now is just to abandon the next generation."

New government funding for programs for children could be a tough sell in this age of budget cuts. O'Leary sees it as a "critically important time" to be in D.C. With sequestration threatening funding to Head Start programs, for one, O'Leary says, "It's a time to highlight that this is just no way to do business."

As for Alfa, this is her first trip to Washington, D.C., and the trip is something this first-generation American could never have imagined.

But what really has the attention of this high school sophomore is her college dream. Alfa has a passion for math, and hopes to use that talent as an aerospace engineer or a pediatric neurosurgeon. She is eyeing MIT or Johns Hopkins. The universities might want to get ready. Alfa Lopez will graduate from high school in 2015.

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