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2014 January

Dream Big

We have one life to live, so dream big and find your purpose in life! However, to dream big t takes a little more than just dreaming…and…Vanessa gets it!

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Vanessa Gets It

written on 12/25/2014

“Nothing will happen…nothing will change…unless you want it to. MAPS taught me to dream big. The journey of pursuit to that dream will consist of hard work and sacrifice. It will be more difficult as I get closer to my big dream or fulfilling my purpose. With faith and support, I will be able to reach my mountain top.”



Life Changing

For many students, MAPS is a life changing program. A real life example of how MAPS is life changing can be witnessed through “D”’s journey. When “D” came to our summer camp program he was a high-risk student who was involved in gang life and had just come out of juvie. The life changing holistic program transformed him. Rather than regret and hold onto his past life choices, “D” decided to move forward. His choice to experience what MAPS could offer was life changing.


Participated in 2011 8-day Mountain Top Program

written July 2012

“Well after Maps 4 College, I was so inspired and motivated by your program to go to college. I began applying For Cal State Universities with the help of my teachers at XXX and the knowledge I received with Maps 4 College. So I applied . . . I thought I was only going to get accepted by one university but I was accepted by all four. I was really astonished and so happy. So of course I had to choose one which was so difficult to do with 4 options. I ended up choosing Cal State Northridge and immediately applied with EOP and was accepted. I also chose to live in the dorms so I move in some time around next month. I just wanted to say thanks to you and the program because it really helped inspire me to go to college and it worked. All the things I learned from the program and the things XXX taught me were very helpful. So hopefully we can meet again and I know you’re an extremely busy person so you tell me whenever it’s possible. THANK YOU and MAPS 4 COLLEGE.

Healing Hearts

Healing hearts is one of our main priorities at MAPS. Yoseline was with MAPS from 1.5 years. In that time with MAPS she provided a way for her and many others to learn how to forgive, love, and thrive in life. Healing hearts helps create a whole person.


Written July 12, 2013

“Over the course of my experience in MAPS 4 college, I have not only learned about the opportunities being a part of this organization offers me, but the meaning of life itself. I know that may sound quite drastic for me to say, but it is true. When I first entered MAPS, I thought it would be a place for me to get help on homework, as well as make new friends, while all working hard to achieve our own individual academic goals. Little did I know at the time that it was so much more.”

“I remember my first day in MAPS, Sarai Koo seemed very disciplined and professional, but there was a whole different side of her I did not yet have any idea about. In MAPS I grew as a person because I was able to mend my broken heart, I have been let down by people I loved, but Maps and Sarai taught me that no matter how many times your heart has been broken, you should continue to love and have compassion for others. I am now a restored soul thanks to Sarai’s valuable lessons that I will carry on for the rest of my life because her words, her messages, and her kindness have impacted my life.”

“Not until later, did I realize that her words and messages were a reflection of Gods message to treat others with compassion and encourage others. All my life I had heard God’s message a certain way, but after hearing it in Sarai’s interpretation I can truly say that I feel more enhanced as a person because I actually understood and took in her words. I think what I liked most about Sarai’s clever way of teaching us how to treat others and core values, was the way she delivered it, she never forced us to listen or to use what she was teaching us. We always had a voice. We were able to talk, share our stories, and share our opinions. Never had I felt as safe, comfortable, and more accepted as a person than I did in MAPS 4 college.”

Leadership Skills

Katrina was one of MAPS’ first CSUF students who build her leadership skills.  She and her CSUF team helped launch the April 10, 2010, Spring to College event at Baldwin Park.  Because of her leadership skills, the event was successful.


written November 2011
Dates involved with MAPS: Feb. 2010 – May 2010

“I am currently a Special Events Sales Coordinator at House of Blues Anaheim.  My experience with MAPS provided the opportunity to plan an event from idea to execution and was great work experience.  I quickly learned how to talk with key audiences and negotiate with vendors.”


How to be a successful student

Many people may wonder how to be a successful student.  Brianna from CSUF demonstrated how to be a successful student.  She and her CSUF team worked on developing written content, while she worked, went to school, and partnered with MAPS.  She did it all.  How to be a successful student? — Learn from Brianna.


Dates involved with MAPS:  9/16/11 – 11/30/11
Date of comments:  November 2011

“I am currently an Undergraduate Finance Associate for the Walt Disney Company and also a full-time student in my 3rd year at the California State University, Fullerton in the University and Business Honors Program. Through my volunteer experience with MAPS, I was able to improve my writing abilities from revisions of written content on the MAPS 4 College website. From this experience, it has helped me to succeed in my studies and be well-prepared to work in the business world.”

“I believe MAPS 4 College is a great program for high school students to get involved in so that they can succeed in life regardless of personal, social, or economic barriers.  I believe MAPS offers great opportunity to any student who wants to go to college.”




Helping is one of the most important words in the dictionary–and at MAPS.  Here at MAPS, helping people launch to their next phase in life is our mission.  We are their launching pad.  Read Deepa’s testimony.


Position with MAPS:  Marketing Coordinator
Written September 2010
(By the way, she has an engineering degree)

“My first encounter with MAPS 4 College was at one of their events in Baldwin Park earlier this year.  I was interested in volunteering for an education-based non-profit and had thus decided to pay a visit.  While at the event, I was moved by Sarai Koo’s amazing speech.  The whole atmosphere and the way the program was run gave everyone a feel that MAPS 4 College not only provides education consultancy, but they do it with a personal touch.  I could see clearly that Sarai has a sincere concern towards the students in need.  Parents are also an important part of the program, which makes it unique.  I was at once convinced that I want to be a part of this organization.  As my association continued, I have realized that the key component in MAPS 4 College culture is the personal aspect of it.  Sarai and her team are not only caring and sympathetic to the students, they carry that attitude with the staff and volunteers as well.”

“As part of my involvement with the organization, I conducted a survey amongst students, volunteers and partners of MAPS 4 College to gather information about what people thought of MAPS 4 College.  The responses spoke clear and loud about the uniqueness and holistic nature of the program that has made a long-lasting impact on people’s minds.  My involvement in the organization has broadened my perspective about life and education.  I have now developed a sense of responsibility towards my own education as well as the education of the community I live in.  If an organization could be so much with budget constraints, there is so much to look forward to from it in the future.  I wish MAPS 4 College all the luck and light to forge ahead!


November 2011 – update

“I currently work as a software Quality Assurance engineer at Belkin International.  My experience at MAPS definitely helped to get the current position. MAPS was an eye opener to American culture and problems. Sarai has an amazing personality and just knowing her and her achievements was a great inspiration to me. I owe a lot to MAPS FOR College.  MAPS 4 College is a great program for students. I was a student who was pretty much lost in my teens. I was weak at heart and could not be assertive or take any solid decisions. These years are formative years for the whole life of a person, and thus i think that by guiding children at that delicate age, we are actually creating leaders for the future. MAPS is a dream organization to work for, because I am sure that once you make a difference in someone’s life, it is only going to inspire you to make a difference everywhere you go. Working for MAPS has been an enriching experience for me.  MAPS 4 College is going to be a very successful program someday. I wish I could do more. I am definitely going to get back to being involved actively with MAPS. I live in LA now and I hope to be involved. I was excited about what MAPS was involved in!”

Build Business Communication Skills

We at MAPS helps students like Nathan build business communication skills.  Nathan, a CSUF student, worked with Brianna and others to help MAPS improve the organization’s business communication skills. In return, he and others improved their skills while helping us. Thank you, Nathan!


Dates involved with MAPS:  9/16/11 – 11/30/11

Written November 2011

“I am currently working as a general office clerk at a SR Maintenance and Management, a small business located in Downey, CA.  My volunteer experience at MAPS has helped me improve my writing abilities, this translates well when writing emails to others in the business.  The experience also helped improve my writing for my upper division business writing class.  I believe that MAPS offers great opportunity to any student that wants to go to college.  It will help students from all areas and will be a great help to those aiming for prestigious schools. I think that the programs that are offered by MAPS are geared towards helping students and everyone could benefit from them.”

Career Opportunities

MAPS provided Natalie with multiple career opportunities that landed her first full-time job and a path to matriculate to prestigious graduate program.  We provide career opportunities, but it is up to individuals to take advantage of our programs.  Natalie did!



She came in as an intern and hired as a coordinator. She then left MAPS to work at a full-time position, and now, she is in graduate school. MAPS is proud of Natalie.

(written Nov. 2011)

“MAPS not only prepared me for a career in the field of Education and nonprofit work, it also provided me with a support system throughout the job hunt, resume and job interview assistance, networking opportunities, and many memories!”

“Interning at MAPS 4 College allowed me to work with high school students involved in the College Preparatory Mentoring Program and gain hands-on nonprofit leadership and administration experience, which includes writing and overseeing grants, fundraising, and public relations.”

“As a MAPS intern, I have been given many responsibilities and challenges that have taught me so much in such a short time!  This non-profit has so many programs, it is definitely unlike any other agency I have been involved with.  It not only focuses on teens and getting them into college, but it is a non-profit that concentrates on the person as a whole; succeeding in life is more than just getting into the brand name college, it is about having the necessary communication, leadership, and relationship skills needed to reach success.”

“At MAPS, I was the Program Coordinator and Executive Director Assistant; my job duties consisted of assisting students throughout the college application process, presenting at educational conferences and events, performing administrative duties, and more.   All of these responsibilities prepared me for my position today–an Online Student Advisor at ICDC College.  As a Student Advisor, I provide academic counseling to students pursuing a certificate, diploma, or Associate’s Degree within the various programs offered.  MAPS not only prepared me for a career in the field of Education and nonprofit work, it also provided me with a support system throughout the job hunt, resume and job interview assistance, networking opportunities, and many memories!  I have personally gained more skills dealing with administration and how to start a non-profit from the bottom up.”

Working Mother Shares Her Testimony

Celia, a working mother, shares her thoughts about MAPS.  Since 2010, she has been with MAPS–it’s a pleasure to have a working mother be part of the MAPS family.



(November 2011)

“My experience with MAPS is truly uplifting ! I find working with an organization that really cares and is dedicated in seeing young adults succeed in their education and  life goals is an honor. MAPS 4 COLLEGE  gives youth the tools to  to explore their talents and ambitions, which may lead them to their ideal career, then  explains to them what it:s going to take to succeed. MAPS also gives youth and  volunteers “hands on training” which then helps them to obtain experience. MAPS 4 COLLEGE is a great organization with a great mission, and I am proud to be involved.”

“I think my work with MAPS as a SPICES Facilitator has given youth the opportunity to learn/think more about themselves, and the adult they want to become. SPICES program allows youth to evaluate their inner self, their values, and relationships in their life today. SPICES programs workshops are very interactive allowing all participants to engage and share their experiences and learn new positive approaches to difficult situations in their life. I believe the work I have put forth has had a positive impact on the youth. When asked to fill out surveys after a workshop the youth participants always responded in a positive manner, rating the topics high.”

“I would recommend this organization to a friend or family member in need of guidance in pursuing a higher education, or getting involved in a volunteer program.”

Student Success

What is the definition of student success? Helen. Hands down Helen is the definition of student success. Every single opportunity MAPS had to offer Helen took them.

When students came to the office at 5:30pm, Helen came at 3:00pm, allowing her to spend countless off-hours with Dr. Koo gaining insightful wisdom. We at MAPS helped position Helen in high school to make her dreams come true. Was Helen’s student success translated after graduation from high school? —Yes. Helen went to her dream school with multiple tools and attributes to succeed. She is confidant and ready to change the world (seriously), and MAPS is ready to help her make it happen.

helen 2013

Helen H.

(2012 interview) Helen is a first at the University of Chicago, with a possibility of majoring in social since and a minor in Human Rights. She graduated in 2012 from Seira Vista High School, in Baldwin Park. Besides of being a full time student at UC, she tutors in a school program, teaching 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.

When did you first hear about MAPS 4 College?

I heard about it from a bulletin announcement through the PA system at the end of my sophomore year in high school. The announcement was about MAPS and how it guides your way to college; I thought to myself I want to go to college.

So when did you join MAPS 4 College?

I joined MAPS in the summer of my incoming year, back in 2010. When I first got in, I attended the College boot camp.


What was the college boot camp about? What did you learn from it?

It was more about finding your fit, a university that fits your personality that would make you happy and to prepare you for the requirements, not just because it is a prestige university or well known. Before I joined, I only knew that I would need good grades, to take the SAT and to have extra curricular courses.

I learned that I was supposed to do research, to see what kind of university would fit me better. I had to think about the size, the number of enrollments, what majors were offered, the location, etc.

I also learned that I needed to understand myself, to know what I really like. From that Camp, I found my current school, University of Chicago.


What does going to University of Chicago mean to you?

It is a dream come true for me to be here! I saw the fruits of my labor working out for me, just by going outside of my area and following my dreams. For me, UC is a great university, from the location, number of students, and the majors they offer.


What did you mostly learn from joining MAPS?

Simply, the first thing is that people should follow their dreams. MAPS helped me to realize what my dreams are by understanding myself as a person. MAPS guides you to follow your dreams.

Finding success is relevant to each person. Instead of what is socially accepted to be successful, you should find your own success, not to just please others.

MAPS 4 college opened a new perception for me, regarding what I want in life. Good things will happen if we know what goals we have in life. Even if we do not reach our goals at the end, along the way we’ll be happy because good things will fall into place. That’s what Sarai Koo always taught us; she believed in it. I do not think I would believe in it as well if I did not see Sarai really believing in what she told us.


How is MAPS different than high school or any other program?

In high school they tell us to be successful and to go to college; that’s it! They do not give us reasons why we are supposed to do so or what is in it for us.  It was just to either make someone proud or to be known. Yes they would offer some programs preparing for college, but not consistent. With MAPS, you are told that to become successful you have to be happy with yourself because what makes you happy, makes you successful. Success is different from person to another; understanding yourself is the first key to success.


What benefits did you gain from joining MAPS?

I was assigned to be a one-on-one tutor in the educational center I am currently working at. From MAPS, I taught students. It was part of the leadership program. After finishing Cohort 1, I was assigned to be a teacher. It helped me a lot as a student and a person. I also got involved in the college prep mentoring program for 2 years.

Currently, I am also trying to establish a MAPS 4 College program in Chicago. I am still working on understanding the satiation of the students in Chicago. It is a different situation than in Los Angeles. I see it more complex, but when I will know it more and understand it better, I will start the work. I am working in student centers now and making connections. Also, I learned from MAPS that connections are really important, that they can help you when you don’t know it.


What difficulties have you overcome?

At a certain time, when I was part of MAPS, I really wanted to quit. I showed up, but students sometimes never did. I was taking the program seriously, but they lacked. Although, I knew that I had to stay and never quit. If I did, I would have failed and never would have become the person I am now.

I also found the ability to accept myself and what I want to be.

Before MAPS, as I mentioned before, I had no background knowledge on what it takes to get to college. My family always encouraged me, but they also did not know enough on how to get me to college.


How would you picture your life without MAPS?

OH, MY GOD! It would suck! I definitely would not have had the courage to follow my dreams. I would also probably be in California, closer to home. I would have gone to a local university and majored on something that I do not even like, but I think I would have been successful; I would have struggled making money, for sure.

Just yesterday, I went to a nonprofit community center. I tried to reach for who was in charge. I asked him if it was possible for me to get involved in helping the community. If I did not join MAPS, I would have never done such thing to help the community I live in.


What does MAPS 4 College mean to you?

First, it is magical. Then, it is life changing, hope inspiring, giving, and a family for me.


How do you see it as a family?

MAPS supports you like a family does, believes in you. MAPS wants the best for you for no return; isn’t that what a family should be?

It is a place for security, a place where they want you to be yourself. They offer the environment that makes you want to be yourself, while you can not be yourself anywhere. That is why I see it like a family.


How do you think MAPS could have better assisted you?

I think I got a great deal with MAPS. I can not think of anything better to improve the program, but I would recommend to have more leadership programs. I think it is very important for everyone to be trained in leadership.