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2013 October
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Why Go To College?

Some students go to college, and others may matriculate to college but question “Why go to college”.  For some, college is not an option. They work.  For Manuel, he never asked “Why go to college” because a postsecondary education was never an option for him.  . . . Ready why . . .

Manuel D.

(interview conducted by Megan D.)

MAPS has been blessed with a new members of the staff. A senior at Pomona High School, his name is Manuel D. and his optimistic attitude and strong work ethic have been a wonderful addition to the team. Manuel was paired with MAPS 4 College through a Goodwill job program for high school students. Manuel seemed to be truly excited to have the opportunity to work with MAPS and enjoyed the work that he was doing.

Naturally, Sarai asked Manuel what his plans were for college. She was rather surprised to hear him say that he had never thought about going to college. She tried to find out more about Manuel and the background that he came from, but he was still a bit reserved. He gave Sarai a shrug and said, “In my family, we do not go to school. We work.” When he began searching for a job in high school, he said that his grades dropped and he stopped caring about school. He left it at that, but surely Manuel had a deeper story to tell. He had a background and he had potential true potential to succeed in higher education. He just needed to open his mind to the idea of going to college.

As his time passed, Manuel opened up to us more and even told us that it was difficult for him to talk about his problems with others; he usually kept to himself. A breakthrough came one Friday afternoon at the Baldwin Park office. He sat down with Sarai and me and told us about the challenges he had faced throughout high school. Manuel comes from a Mexican-American family. At his high school there is constant violence between African-American and Mexican-American students and drug deals, with items smuggled through pencils, markers, and deodorant. It is almost impossible to escape seeing these things on an every-day basis.

In his freshman year, Manuel soon became affiliated with the Mexican-American gangs at his school. He soon became involved in smoking and drinking. “I used to steal cigarettes from my dad,” Manuel recalls. He also says that he used to drink nearly every night and in such nights, he would get in violent encounters with other gangs. When he did go to school, which was rare, he would sleep through classes or not skip classes to smoke. He considered himself a drop-out by freshman year because he cared so little about school. Manuel became aggressive with his father and mother and even challenged them. It was then, Manuel recalls, that his family stopped caring about what he did. He says, “My parents stopped caring about my grades. My dad used to beat me with a belt [for bad grades]. That was painful, but it showed he cared, right?”

In the gang scene, Manuel recalls that “Every day, somebody from the gang was getting jumped. I got jumped.” During one night of drinking, he was even shot at by members of a different gang whom he had challenged. When he got home, he says, “I found two holes in my shirt where the bullets went through.” Realizing that he could have died, Manuel had an apithamy. He realized that he had to get himself out of the gangs. He ended his late night parties and gang fights. He stopped drinking and smoking. However, at school it was difficult to escape racial tensions.

Despite his separation from the gangs, Manuel spent his lunch hour with many of the gang members who had become his friends. Manuel says that he wanted to be around them simply because they had them the same interests as him, such as taste in music. Manuel says he “felt comfortable” when he was with them. However, many of these friends would smoke marijuana during their lunch hour in an area where there was little security. One afternoon, security officers came and busted the group for smoking marijuana. Manuel was written-up for being with the group even though he said that he did not smoke. The school officials affiliated him with the gangs and seemed to care little about his well-being or success. It was at this point, that he considered officially dropping-out of school; no one seemed to care what he did.

After a short period in adult school, he reentered high school with a new perspective. He was determined to get his grades up so that he could consider joining the army or Coast Guard. Gradually, he brought his grades up from mostly F’s to D’s.  He was proud of his accomplishment, but soon he was called into the administrative office. The administrator tried to influence Manuel to leave. Manuel recalls that when he went into the administrator’s office, there was an extensive list of “gangsters and suspected gangsters” that the administrators were determined to get out of the school. The administrators were convinced that Manuel was a gang member and Manuel says, “Administrators said I gotta go.”

Manuel, however, knew that if he dropped out of high school and got only his GED then he could not join the military. He continued through school and was eventually led to MAPS through his search for a job. He says that has enjoyed his work at MAPS and he particularly enjoys the people whom he works with. After his first days with MAPS, Manuel says, “I thought it was pretty fun. I had never been with people like that before…professionals.”

Manuel has begun to truly consider going to college. He is excited about the opportunities available to him through MAPS and he is hopeful about his future success with the program. With Manuel’s growing determination and hard-work ethic, it is truly exciting for the entire staff to see what he will achieve in the years to come.







Pathway Created for Paulina

After Paulina graduated from college, she understands that the pathway created for her was the best option.  CSUF interns interviewed Paulina in 2012.  She shares how her pathway has led her to work at the forth largest steel company in the world.

Paulina H.

Paulina was 22 year old at the time of her interview in 2012.  She is from La Mirada, California, and she never had the idea of having a full time job out of her area.  When she was attending high school, she was not entirely certain about going to college.   During her junior year of high school, she did not know what the requirements were or how to apply to a college, until she heard about MAPS 4 College.  After joining MAPS, she graduated from Grace College in Indiana (with a bachelor in criminal justice) in 2012.  Now, she is working full time in South Korea at the English department of Pohang Iron and Steel Company (POSCO), one of the largest steel companies in the world.

After her life changing experience, we had the privilege of interviewing Paulina; she explained to us how MAPS 4 College changed her perception of life and led her way to success:


How did you hear about MAPS 4 College?

My mother knew Sarai Koo, founder of MAPS.  When my mother mentioned me to Sarai, she told her about MAPS and that she wanted to meet me.


What was the purpose that led you to join such a program like MAPS?

A lot of my friends had parental support to go to SAT tutoring centers for test preparations.  I did not have this kind of support from my parents, but not because they cared less.  They fully supported me in high school and to do well; both of my parents got their education in a different country with a different system than what we have here.  They were not familiar with the process and neither was I.  During my junior year in high school I panicked when I realized that I needed to start preparing and applying for college, but I did not know where to start, when everyone started to prepare.  As a 1.5 generation, we did not have the knowledge on how to apply to college, even though we were already adapted to the culture.

 Tell me more about how different MAPS 4 College is than tutoring centers?

MAPS are a program that shows students the way to get to college, a key to that door and the way to that door.  You, as a student, will have the choice to go to that door and unlock it with the key MAPS provides you with.  They will tell you how to apply, what you need to apply, what should you do and how to do it.  Train you for skills that you will not only use in school, but in your life as well.  They help us to find our goals and to reach them, unlike tutoring centers where they just prepare you for tests and that’s it.


What are something’s you learned about yourself through joining MAPS 4 College and how did it help you as a person to be where you are now in your life?

A lot of intelligent, hardworking people are out there in the world, but being the smartest does not mean that you will be the best.  You need to use your abilities, have good timing and take advantage of opportunities when you have them.  College-wise, I learned to think outside the box.  A lot of my high school friends went to in-state universities close to their homes.

With MAPS I learned that options are many and a lot of them are good, you just need to choose what’s best for you.  I learned if I go to an out-of-state I would learn more by going and depending on myself.  I would learn and see more out there in the world; it opens your mind when you go to new places and see new people.  Finally, I attended Grace College in Winona Lake, IN.   Also, I went to both China and Korea as an exchange student, that`s how I got my current job by going abroad.  It was an amazing opportunity to see the world and how people are different.  I learned that you cannot say there is a bad country and good country because each country has it good and it’s bad.  One thing I’m sure about is if I went to a school close to home, I would have never been here in South Korea with this job.  Now I would probably be in California with a part time job waiting to get married.  Going out and experiencing more made me to want more.  I’m not saying I am an intelligent person, but I had an opportunity to go out and I took it.  MAPS definitely provided me with a key to enter my success door.  I got helped to understand how the real world is and made my own decision of what path I would take in my life.


What skills did you gain from MAPS that you did not only use in your education but in your career as well?

When I was in high school, before joining MAPS, I hated public speaking, not even talking or having a phone call with someone I did not know.  I would let any other person talk for me instead.  I grew up with my friends.  I did not need to get out of my shell.  I would do any task that did not involve any interaction with people, but not speaking in public.  MAPS brought me out of my shell.  Now, a big part of my job is public speaking. Sometimes I have to speak in front of more than 150 employees and many of them I don’t even know.  In morning sessions, I would teach all the employees of the company a phrase or two in English, I would make phone calls, translate and even present.

Which faculty member left the most impact on you? Why?

Sarai Koo is the person who played a huge part of leading me to success.  Most importantly, Sarai introduced me and welcomed me to MAPS.  She taught me most of the skills I needed, she opened my eyes to see what’s out there in the world.  It was her who gave me the advice to apply to an out-of-state school, even if I did not want to go, to just apply there.  She also helped me a lot with my writing skills.  She is one of the most passionate, hardworking persons I have ever known in my life.

Describe yourself before joining MAPS 4 College as a student.

Before joining MAPS I was not very concerned about college.  I was focusing mostly about high school during that time.  I was not looking forward; I cared less about my future without any plan for the long run.


What about after joining MAPS, tell me about yourself.  

After joining MAPS I had a better understanding about what I should do next.  It helped me into taking my next step of going to college and what were the options that I was able to take.  I understood that college will be different than high school.  It was the time to make the transition, to start planning everything myself.  Unlike high school, where everything is given to you.  Classes for example, in high school you have your class schedules given to you.  College on the other hand, you have to choose your own and plan your way to graduation.  Going to college means more responsibilities that will require more organization.


Tell me about your relation with MAPS after high school, how would you describe it?

After I went to college, I used to visit every time I would get back home.  I would volunteer to help as much as I can, this is the least I can do in return to what I gained from MAPS.  Now, after moving to Korea, I hardly keep in touch with them, but I do whenever I have the chance.  Every time I talk to them I hear about improvements and achievements for their programs.









Any recommendations for MAPS 4 College that would benefit new student?

At POSCO, we are implementing the MBTI test.  It is a test that helps you to know your personality type.  It can help you know if you are an introvert, a judge, or a feeler.

It doesn’t tell you what kind of person you are, but it tells you things that you would prefer.  Finding what you are passionate about would narrow down a lot of choices for students to find their way to do well.  I highly recommend all high school students to join MAPS for sure.












Amanda had her mind set

When Amanda first came to MAPS, she had two goals in mind–increase her test score to get admitted to a PharmD college and receive scholarship money.

Amanda W.

(at the time of the interview, Amanda was 20 years of age)
joined MAPS 4 College:  2009, Junior in High School
high school attended:  Sunny Hills High School
graduation year: 2010

-Colleges/Universities to which you have been accepted:  St. Louis College of Pharmacy, University of Southern California, University of the Pacific, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, University of Missouri Kansas City, Case Western

She is attending St. Louis College of Pharmacy.  Anticipated graduate year of 2016 with a Doctorate of Pharmacy- Pharm. D


How did you hear about MAPS 4 College?

From my mom.  I honestly do not remember how she heard of it.  Probably from a flyer, friend, or by word of mouth.  Sarai has permission to fill in the gaps here.


What led you to join MAPS?
I needed to raise my ACT score by two points within the next two months in order to achieve my desired ACT score of 30.  I needed this score to be competitive for my colleges and to get the Presidential Scholarship at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy.

The program was affordable and flexible with my schedule.  The tutor was credible.

Have you previously joined an organization/program/service agency/etc.?

In terms of a tutor, yes I attended two other tutors while in high school and preparing for the SAT/ACT:  Almers and Elite

In terms of non-profits, no.  MAPS is the only non-profit organization that I benefited from academically.  MAPS helped me realize that I need to apply to a lot of colleges and leave my options open.

What MAPS activities and programs were you involved in and indicate the year?

ACT tutoring- one session in 2009 during my Junior year.
I honestly am very thankful for the affordable and personalized ACT tutoring that I received during my session that MAPS provided.  I was able to continue my learning after the time slot for tutoring whenever I had extra time.  I reached my goal because resources to do well on the ACT were made available and Sarai, the founder, was very supportive, personable, and flexible.  To top off this personalized experience, I reached my goal of improving my ACT score by two points within 1-2 months.

What lessons have you learned from your experience with MAPS that have been of great benefit to you as of this moment?

Educational, Personal, Emotional, and Social
It is important to be driven and to find resources that help you achieve your goals.  It is important to find mentors and people who genuinely are committed to and capable of helping you reach those goals.

How long were you associated with MAPS? What was your role? – for example, student, intern, or volunteer?

Two months- student.

How confident were you about applying to college before joining MAPS?

I was confident with my ACT score but not confident that I would be as competitive as possible.  After MAPS I was much more confident about my ACT score and being competitive in a holistic sense.

How have MAPS helped you with your college and life process? In what way?

Taught me that individual, achievable, measurable, and attainable goals are important to establish in order to achieve my full potential.

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

Helped me remember that I need to put in time to see results on the ACT.   I also need to study effectively.

Thinking back, what was your impression of MAPS 4 College when you first joined?
Initial impression:  non-profit, never tried this before, not sure if it is going to be as good as my higher paid tutors.

Describe yourself before joining MAPS 4 College as a student?

Frustrated about my ACT score.

Have you experienced any changes in yourself during your participation with MAPS?

I feel that I can be up front with my goals and that people will respect me for that, and in the best cases, help me toward my goals.

Reflecting back, what is something you learned about yourself from MAPS? In what way has MAPS helped you grow as a human being? It can be something little or big. 

I learned that if you want something, you have to prepare for it and gear yourself for that event to actually occur.

What are some tools MAPS gave you that you still use today? why?

MAPS reminded me of the value of hard work, and this core value is what causes gains and losses in the academic realm and life itself.

In your opinion, what are the advantages of joining MAPS 4 College?

The benefit of joining MAPS 4 College is getting to externally process your goals with people that genuinely care about students and learning and are equipped to help you.  MAPS 4 College does not give you goals, but rather asks you to look within yourself and think about your personal goals.  Then, once you share those, they are there to cheer you on and provide academic tools that work with your schedule.

After all these years, what does MAPS 4 College mean to you?

MAPS 4 College is a resource that I think warmly and fondly upon.  When I think of MAPS 4 College I am reminded of sincere individuals that helped me get into my accelerated pharmacy school directly from high school.  I am reminded that there are people in the world that earnestly want to help young adults realize their potential- in these days that is hard to come by.

 How could MAPS have better assisted you?

I just wish I had found them earlier!

Are there any improvements the organization/staff could make to help future MAPS students?

Better marketing, wider marketing.  Keep the vision but make it bigger so that the maximum number of students can benefit.  Target all students low to high socioeconomic scale.  Keep believing in the program!  It helped me.