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Back East Scholars Trip (BEST) participants (students Riel, Ximena, Cyruss, Viviane, Daniela, and Ashley) dressed up for the Harvard Club with Grant Cambridge, Nayeli Reyes and Harvard guide Andreé Franco Vasquez.

For the fourth year in a row, Grant Cambridge, Value Schools board chair, has generously provided to six academically-promising Central City students the opportunity of a lifetime-an all-expenses-paid trip to New England to tour some of the most prestigious schools in the country! Dubbed the Back East Scholars' Trip (BEST), this experience exposes Value Schools' students to educational institutions and opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach.

For Value Schools students, visiting college and university campuses “back East” is a new and eye-opening experience. Riel, Ximena, Cyruss, Viviane, Daniela, and Ashley all broadened their educational horizons in a whirlwind three-day trip. The group visited Brown University, Yale University, Connecticut College, Boston University, and Harvard University, as well as the Mystic Seaport Museum.

The purpose of the trip is to help students and families understand that access to institutions like these is not necessarily out of reach... It’s broadening their perspectives, their horizons, exposing them to something they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to experience. ”
– Grant Cambridge, Value Schools' Board Chair

Mr. Cambridge and Ms. Reyes, Central City Value High School’s Leadership Council Moderator, began this year’s BEST journey months ago.  Central City Value students interested in participating completed applications last semester, and were chosen based not on grades, but on school and extra-curricular engagement, educational aspirations, and teacher feedback.

"The purpose of the trip," explained Mr. Cambridge, "is to help students and families understand that access to institutions like these is not necessarily out of reach."

In a meeting with families brought together a week before the trip to review the itinerary, Mr. Cambridge shared his personal educational journey. He underscored his experience of not receiving the needed guidance on college strategy, and the importance of this kind of exposure in the minds of young scholars.  They heard first-hand from Brittany, now a Senior at Central City Value High School who attended the BEST trip in its first year. She explained how it made possible her ultimate acceptance and scholarship award to Brown University.

"Some of these schools seem impossible to us," said Brittany, "but that moment, seeing students walking on campus, students like me, made me realize that I could do it."

They looked like me, and came from where I came from, and it makes me feel like I can do it, too, if I try really hard.”
– Ximena, Central City Value High School sophomore

Hearing about the financial possibility of going to an expensive private institution is one thing.  But for our students, visiting the campuses of these famous institutions, and seeing students like them, made college access feel possible. College students with similar backgrounds and aspirations as our students guided each campus tour.  Visits to college libraries and dorms led to questions about admissions, cost, and the cultural and social adjustments our students will most likely face when going to college.

"The fact that [our guides] were Latino had a big influence on me," said Sophmore Ximena, explaing how the diversity she witnessed on campuses such as Harvard empowered her. "They looked like me, and came from where I came from, and it makes me feel like I can do it, too, if I try really hard.”

“When I was growing up, the Ivy Leagues seemed like make-believe," said teacher and chaperone Ms. Reyes. "But now these kids feel excited, and they feel like, 'I can do this!'"

Students met with tour guides like Andreé Franco Vasquez, who grew up in Los Angeles and was now attending her junior year at Harvard. The limitations brought by scarcity of recources or documentation status didn't stop her, and her testimony had a big impact.


Click to view photos from the trip

Students also meet with Value Schools' Founding Board member Rob Lovelace's daughter, Alicia Lovelace, on the campus of Yale University. She encouraged students not to think about what an institution like Yale might expect from them, but instead what they could get out of it. "The question is," said Ms. Lovelace, "what do I want out of Yale, and what will I bring here that Yale can help me with."

Mr. Cambridge opened doors to cultural experiences, too.  Our students experienced the best Boston had to offer.  After packed days of college and university tours, they took in a city imbued with history and dined lavishly at the Harvard Club. They visited the Mystic Seaport Museum and explored the maritime history of ships over 175 years old.

"As the day went on you could see how thought provoking the experience is for the students," said Mr. Cambridge, "which is really what this is all about. It's broadening their perspectives, their horizons, exposing them to something they wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to experience."

Over the following months, Value Schools will be sharing more about our students’ experience in the BEST program.  These exposés will focus on the impact such experiences have on family members, teachers, other students at Value Schools, and on the students themselves. Stay tuned for more!

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Downtown Value School Downtown Value School 
950 West Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Phone: (213) 748-8868
Fax: (213) 742-6684
Everest Value School Everest Value School
668 South Catalina Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90005
Phone: (213) 487-7736
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221 North Westmoreland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90004
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1929 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90006
Phone: (213) 382-1223