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Our Voices

What Happened to Adrian Hernandez?

Adrian is a young man that has a passion to direct films. In fall 2014, he will be attending USC Film School this coming fall.  However, without MAPS, he would not be attending film school. In the past, Adrian was introverted and clamored.  Once bullied, outcasted from peers, and depressed, he found MAPS.  From the program, he increased in confidence, a voice, and friends. He found the motivation and drive to direct nine plays.  He started his own independent short films, and a review series that analyzes issues in a critical light.

 

What advice would you give to people if they were considering participating in the SPICES Program right now?

Do it, quite simply do it. It’s a very wonderful experience and it’s really going to change you. A lot of people I knew from the program was changed as well. They were like me, very clamored, very withheld, very introverted. And they …expanded and started branching out and they’re really achieving their potential now–which is something that not very many people get to do, especially at a young age.” – Adrian Hernandez

May 11, 2014   Testimonial

My name is Adrian Hernandez. I am currently 18 years old and soon to be attending USC for a major in Film and Television Production. I am confident that MAPS made the latter possible, and can make such achievements possible for others my age.

MAPS 4 College initially appealed to me because of the free ACT prep it offered. Such open assistance for such an important test seemed insane to me, and I immediately sought a membership application.

As I stayed in the program, I found that it offered more than it advertised. My peers and I began setting aside our ACT prep books and discussing various topics of interest. Politics, religion, society, and even the qualities of a lasting existence were brought up in civilized, round-table discussions. I’d often heard from relatives that such conversations existed on higher-education campuses, but never did I think I’d find them so close to home.

I soon began to love the intelligence and insight my fellow MAPS peers offered me. Under the discussion direction of Sarai Koo, we explored and mobilized ourselves into making positive change in our community. We saw the inequities society shackled us with due to our geographic location and upbringing, and decided to organize several college fairs and information sessions in the area to generate interest in higher education.

I also found in MAPS the social and life skills needed to pursue my educational and career goals. Before MAPS, I was timid: Rarely opening up about myself and often using harsh cynicism to cover up my insecurities. After MAPS gave me a chance to open up to other people–to understand, empathize, and even become companions with my fellow man–I found in myself a newfound desire to do good upon others. I knew that I loved entertainment, and wanted to touch people’s lives through laughter and thought. After learning to love others for who they were, I knew that it was my duty to go out and brighten the doldrums of their daily lives with stories and joy and humor. I became president and Director of the Sierra Vista Drama Club to achieve this goal, and directed a total of 6 plays in my time, each requiring me to associate with a large amount of people in new and interesting ways. I can personally say that I delighted the lives of several hundreds of audience members in my time and I have MAPS to thank for this.

MAPS is more than just a college or ACT prep course: It’s a class in life itself. The skills and individuals I met will stay with me always. Always.

MAPS taught me more than how to be a good studier or test-taker: It taught me how to be a proper, motivated, and curious human being.

 Testimonial May 11, 2014

Spices

As I see it, we’re all lost.

Whether it’s in terms of our future, our fate, our purpose, or our place in the world, there’re always nagging questions in the back of our minds. Ones we can’t answer. Ones we can’t ignore.

The How’s, the Why’s, the Who’s, the When’s, the What’s. They hound us like flies, circling and infecting us. And they only get louder as we get older.

We turn every which way to find answers. Like rats in a maze. Sometimes we’re led to chapels and churches and synagogues. Others, we’re led to needles and pills and blunts.

All they offer are the quick solutions; ones that get us through the night until the morning. The morning. The morning so we can question again. So we can run like rats in a maze. So we can find our way back to the chapels and the churches and the synagogues and the. . .

I was tired of it.

To relieve my questions, I turned towards the MAPS program for guidance. A program that had given me so much. A program that seemed to have an answer for everything.

And it did this time, too.

SPICES.

More than a religious doctrine or shallow self-help code, SPICES offers a set of life philosophies worth living by.

The answers to those big questions.

Who am I? The person I create for myself.

How should I treat people? Equally, regardless of whom they are. We’re nearly identical genetically, anyways. All past wrong-doings are in the past, and the past is where our past lives live, not our present selves.

Why am I here? To improve the quality of the human race.

SPICES is more than just another cheap slogan: It houses the secrets to living a quality life.

After all, don’t we all need a map?

Testimonial June 4, 2019

Adrian Hernandez turned 23 years old on June 4, 2019 (about 7 years after the first SPICES program).

I received SPICES during the round of “Beta Testing” with a cohort of high school students in a program called “MAPS 4 College.” It was different than I ever expected.

Our MAPS sessions, hosted with a pilot cohort of around 20 high school students, existed to give us the resources we needed to learn components of the SAT and ACT tests, and several practice sessions where we learned from each other through lectures and practice problems.

After our test prep sessions were over around 2013, MAPS began to evolve into a collection of Socratic Seminars analyzing our perspectives, ambitions, and overall life goals. This, without me knowing it, was my first taste of the SPICES platform.

Topics I remember being discussed in these sessions included:

— What a happy and fulfilling life is, and how we could start to prepare ourselves for living one

— What our life ambitions were, and how we could start to establish paths to achieve them

— Effective leadership tactics – our internal and external motivations for achieving our ambitions

— Many of the racial, social, and economic hardships that impeded upward mobility in our Latinx community, as well as the differences and similarities between the cultures we all came from.

— Ways we could use our ambitions to impact other people positively

At first, I was confused as to why a college prep course would dedicate time to talking about subjects which had nothing to do with the ACT or SAT. Now I see what Sarai was doing: She was setting us up to ask what life we wanted to pave for ourselves once we got to college, and beyond.

I feel the biggest mistake people (especially my age) make is charging down career or life paths without careful consideration of their personal ambitions, happiness, and legacies. They hear talk of good money or stability, and barrel down pathways hoping they’ll like the lives they end up with. This, I feel, is why so many people look at themselves when they’re 30 and find themselves unhappy. They’ve climbed to the top of a mountain they never wanted to stand on.

SPICES, on the other hand, is a set of guidelines that moves away from this classic trap. The platform begins with an analysis of the heart and soul of your personal ambition, and ends with giving you the strategies you need to maximize your ability to achieve what you strive for.

How do I know that it works?

I’m one of its early benefiters.

When I was six, I identified my personal ambition to be a filmmaker. I knew that the purpose of my life was to entertain and challenge people through cinematic art.

I had several people, teachers and parents, tell me that becoming a filmmaker would lead to stress and financial difficulty. I was told to avoid the route completely and go into engineering or computer science. At 14, I was almost considering giving up on my ambition and agreeing with many of these adults around me who told me to give up. Why would they lie, after all?

Then I encountered SPICES.

Through SPICES, I gained the courage to follow an atypical life path, and through the teachings of the program, was able to harness my personal strengths to make a film career happen for myself. I have no formal ties to the film industry. My Dad is a dishwasher, my mother is a homemaker.

After helping start a drama class in my high school’s lackluster educational curriculum, I was accepted to attend school for Film and TV Production at the USC School of Cinematic Arts on full scholarship. It’s the most expensive and selective film school in the country.

I went through 4 years of intense production curriculum, entrusting that my love of impacting people through art and adoration of the film medium would pull through, and it has!

Since graduating from USC’s Film School in 2018, I have worked for Fox Sports West, Los Angeles Metro, The National Association for Latinx Independent Producers, Fine Brother Entertainment, and countless other independent ventures. I’ve sound designed several shorts and a feature film, and acted as cinematographer on three independent feature films and several shorts and music videos.

My personal directorial work, largely in documentary, has been shown in festivals around the country, and I’m privileged to say that I am now making a living doing what I love in a career field I want to be in.

And I’m just getting started. I live to entertain and provoke thought in people through my art.

SPICES helped me realize that. SPICES helped make that into a reality. Sarai’s insights will get you far. Trust me.”

 

 


The Sky’s The Limit

Written by: Isaiah Lee

Date: July 2, 2015

    What is MAPS 4 College? As an approaching senior in high school there are a countless number of questions that need to be answered. How do I fill out my application? What schools do I apply to? What do I write for my college essay? With the plethora of questions that arise, I can only wonder what is in store for me in the near future.

    Coming from a very fortunate household, I don’t have much to worry about. College is just around the corner and it seems to be a clear straight road ahead. Yet for many, especially within Los Angeles, college isn’t even an option and even if it was it could mean an entire lifetime of paying off student loans. To be honest I never thought MAPS 4 College would apply to me. My first impressions were that this is just like any other non- profit that provides a means for lower income families to reach a higher education. How incredibly wrong I was. After studying and reading through the website, I came to this realization that MAPS 4 College applies to so much more. In essence, yes, MAPS is an “educational pipeline” but beyond that it serves to provide all the necessary attributes needed to succeed in life. One of the main components that really captivated my attention were the messages written under youth voices. In almost every post I read about how MAPS and the people had changed their lives for the better and provided them with something that could never be taken away. Each message in itself was very genuine and special and gave me a whole new perspective on this organization. “MAPS was the place where I smiled, laughed, cried, and blossomed. It became my safe haven.” After reading those stories I could not help but feel jealous that I was not able to participate with MAPS.

    MAPS 4 College is much more than what I originally perceived. This program encompasses everything, from the ACT test to living a holistic and content life. Although I am writing from an external perspective, I believe this organization truly has potential. And as a MAPS graduate similarly said “MAPS can change the world, I hope people don’t take it lightly…because it can.”

MAPS4College_EdDevine
27
Feb

MAPS 4 College and Project SPICES Host 4th Annual Out-of-State College Fair on February 18, 2015

written by Gabriel Mendoza and Sarai Koo, Ph.D.

“The idea that attending an out-of-state college will always be more expensive is not true,” Ed Devine, President-Elect of the Western Association of College Admission Counseling (WACAC) and Regional Director of Admissions at Lafayette College, said to students and parents at the college fair. “These colleges have grants and scholarships that can make attending them the same if not less than attending college in California,” Devine said.

Dr. Sarai Koo, Founder and CEO of MAPS 4 College and Chief Visionary of Project SPICES said, “We all know about the big name schools, but sometimes those schools may not be the best match for you. Finding a college that fits you means you are more likely to be successful there.”

College admission representatives presented workshops, such as finding the right college fit, living on campus, financial aid, and ways to increase their chances of being accepted into college. Also, the representatives helped students develop and/or evaluate their college essays/personal statements.

“When do you get the opportunity to have college admission representatives help YOU get ready for college? They are giving you golden nuggets that can change your life.” Koo stated.

The night concluded with a case study session entitled “How College Decisions Are Made.” Students and parents were given the chance to play the role of a college admission counselor and were asked to choose who they would accept into college from a group of mock students.

“I learned a lot,” Ricky Santiago, 16, said. “I learned how check out schools and make sure it will work for me. And if I work hard enough it can cost the same if not less as the colleges around home.”

With the information they received, they are motivated to increase their academic grades, become more involved in the community, become responsible and action-oriented leaders, and more.

 

2015-MAPS_fair_agenda1 2015-MAPS_Fair_agenda2

 


2/18/15- 4th Annual College Fair and Free College Essay Evalutation

2015_College_Fair

MAPS 4 College, Regional Admission Counselors of California, Project SPICES, and the City of Baldwin Park will be hosting its 4th annual college fair in Baldwin Park on Wednesday, February 18, 2015.

Date: Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015

Time: 5:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Registration: email mapscollegefair@gmail.com OR

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1OrOjSpJ_80yybnFGBnOyWJ6Wc8cKitLmuWJybC0rfR8/viewform

Agenda:

5:30 pm – Registration
6:00 pm – Presentation: Go out of state to college and save more money?
6:45 pm – Workshops (financial aid, finding the right college, and more)
8:00 pm – Actual college fair

** College admission officers will review college essays and advise students for free **

Guest Speaker:  Ed Devine 

Ed Devine is the current President Elect for the Western ACAC (www.wacac.org). He oversees colleges and universities, community colleges, public, private and parochial high schools, independent practices and community based organizations in California and Nevada. He served as the Chair of the Regional Admission Counselors of CA, representing colleges and universities throughout the nation. Also, he has served on New England and New York ACAC committees. Currently, he is the Regional Director of Admissions at Lafayette College, a most selective institution in Pennsylvania. Previously, he worked at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, Syracuse University, Le Moyne College, Loyola University of Chicago, and Hawaii Pacific University.

We are looking for people who would like to join the leadership team to help make this fair come to fruition! If you are interested, contact mapscollegefair@gmail.com.

Date: Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015

Location: 4100 Baldwin Park Blvd., Baldwin Park, CA 91706

Time: 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

 

 


MAPS 4 College Invites New Interns to Get Prepared for the Workforce and Find Their Purpose

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Written by Audrey Ngo

MAPS 4 College Invites New Interns to Get Prepared for the Workforce and Find Their Purpose

BALDWIN PARK, Calif. – July 24, 2014 – On Aug. 5, MAPS 4 College (MAPS), the California Park and Recreation Society’s “Best of the Best Community Service” award winning nonprofit, is looking for new interns for their Leadership and Career Training Program.

Since 2006, MAPS has given high school students, college students, and adults the tools to find their purpose. Its Leadership and Career Training Program, or LCT Program, has enabled its participants to finish their degree and find full-time employment since 2009, and welcomes all students and adults seeking to improve their academic, professional, and personal life.

Founder and CEO of MAPS, Dr. Sarai Koo, has made it her mission to create a curriculum that puts people on the track to success. Her unique, free of charge, LCT Program combines her doctorate program research, her professional background in human development, and her own personal experiences into one, all-inclusive program.

The LCT Program gives participants the opportunity not to just survive, but thrive in all areas of their life including:

Discovering what they are passionate about and pursuing their future career paths

Developing good character, confidence, and courage to overcome obstacles

Building quality soft skills needed for any industry

Becoming aware of and reducing destructive patterns

Strengthening skills needed to effectively and efficiently fulfill tasks and goals such as time management, communication skills, and problem solving skills

Many past participants of the LCT Program started with no experience in the career they wanted to pursue. MAPS was able to take LCT Program participants with little or no experience and give them the tools to gain employment in finance, media communications, public relations, business and more, as well as a newfound satisfaction in their personal life.

Koo wants to take the MAPS message worldwide and let those who have fallen off track know that anyone can achieve their goals, regardless of their past. With the help of her new team, she plans to promote her organization in order to reach more students and adults in need. For more information on how to join her internship team or to donate call (310) 487-1228 or email info@maps4college.org.

MAPS 4 College is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization that helps students succeed in school, college, and life. The organization helps students graduate from high school, get accepted to a college, and live their purpose. MAPS engages students in a rigorous comprehensive, one of a kind learning skills program designed to develop and inspire lifelong learning and workforce readiness. This program helps students discover, articulate, and achieve their personal and educational goals regardless of their previous learning difficulty.

# # # #


Aug. 5 New National Workforce Development Efforts Workshop

Aug. 5 event- New National Workforce Development Efforts: President Obama’s Job-Driven Training Initiative and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014

Hear from Ben Seigel, Senior Policy Advisor/Deputy Director from the Department of Labor, on youth employment, apprenticeship, immigrant integration, grants, and other skills related work.

He will provide us with insightful workforce development information. At this event, we will also discuss collaborative approaches to create new internships, collaborative grant writing opportunities, job opportunities, and training programs.

Time: 5 pm – 8 pm
We will start promptly at 5 pm and end at 7:30 pm.
Location: Liberty Park and Fitness Center, Washington Room
19211 Studebaker Road Cerritos, CA 90703 (562) 916-8565

Ben Seigel is Deputy Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Senior Policy Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training at the U.S. Department of Labor. Ben helps lead the Department’s partnership activities and works especially closely with nonprofits, community-based organizations, and workforce development agencies. He also spearheads the Department’s efforts around addressing long-term unemployment. Prior to joining the Department of Labor and the Obama Administration in 2010, Ben was Senior Vice President for External Affairs at Seedco, a national workforce and community development nonprofit organization. Ben has a Bachelor’s Degree from Swarthmore College and a Master’s Degree from New York University. For more background Ben, visit: www.linkedin.com/in/benseigel/

Note: Please send this invitation to your contacts
Please consider sending this form to your contacts. We hope to create a collaborate group to help our youth and adults prepare for the workforce. Register now. Space is limited.

Contact: Dr. Sarai Koo, CEO and Founder of MAPS 4 College and Project SPICES Email: Saraikoo@gmail.com Phone: (213) 718-9676 www.maps4college.org www.projectspices.com

MAPS 4 College is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization that helps students succeed in school, college, and life. MAPS engages students in a rigorous comprehensive, one of a kind learning skills program designed to develop and inspire lifelong learning and workforce readiness. In 2014, out of 28 cities in San Gabriel Valley, the California Park and Recreation Society District 13 awarded MAPS 4 College the “Best of the Best Community Service” organization.

MAPS 4 College is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that helps students succeed in school, college, and life. MAPS serves inner-city, low-income minority youth who have multiple barriers by providing them with human development programs that are multi-disciplinary, holistic, evidence-based. With MAPS, students realign their principles and values and become leaders in social good for themselves and the world around them. Our results-oriented innovative programs prepare and launch students to get to college, finish college, and position themselves to thrive in life. In 2014, out of 28 cities in San Gabriel Valley, the California Park and Recreation Society District 13 awarded MAPS 4 College the “Best of the Best Community Service” organization.

Project SPICES is a socially conscious enterprise bringing about the full human potential of its clients through careful human mapping, empowering people of all ages to live a purpose driven life. SPICES provides proven, holistic programs and training services that invigorates people within their communities to get the most out of their lives, personally and professionally. SPICES partners with individuals, agencies, businesses, and cities.

OUR SPONSORS
MAPS 4 College Project SPICES Carol Chen, Cerritos Mayor Pro Tem (personal sponsor) RL Business Plans Starbucks – Buena Park Olive Garden – Cerritos 85C Bakery Cafe – Cerritos Polly’s Pies Restaurant – Cerritos Black Bear Diner – Buena Park Your Space Self Storage – Norwalk


Adrian Shares Great Insight About His Experience at MAPS

Adrian H.

May 11, 2014

Testimonial

My name is Adrian Hernandez. I am currently 18 years old and soon to be attending USC for a major in Film and Television Production. I am confident that MAPS made the latter possible, and can make such achievements possible for others my age.

MAPS 4 College initially appealed to me because of the free ACT prep it offered. Such open assistance for such an important test seemed insane to me, and I immediately sought a membership application.

As I stayed in the program, I found that it offered more than it advertised. My peers and I began setting aside our ACT prep books and discussing various topics of interest. Politics, religion, society, and even the qualities of a lasting existence were brought up in civilized, round-table discussions. I’d often heard from relatives that such conversations existed on higher-education campuses, but never did I think I’d find them so close to home.

I soon began to love the intelligence and insight my fellow MAPS peers offered me. Under the discussion direction of Sarai Koo, we explored and mobilized ourselves into making positive change in our community. We saw the inequities society shackled us with due to our geographic location and upbringing, and decided to organize several college fairs and information sessions in the area to generate interest in higher education.

I also found in MAPS the social and life skills needed to pursue my educational and career goals. Before MAPS, I was timid: Rarely opening up about myself and often using harsh cynicism to cover up my insecurities. After MAPS gave me a chance to open up to other people–to understand, empathize, and even become companions with my fellow man–I found in myself a newfound desire to do good upon others. I knew that I loved entertainment, and wanted to touch people’s lives through laughter and thought. After learning to love others for who they were, I knew that it was my duty to go out and brighten the doldrums of their daily lives with stories and joy and humor. I became president and Director of the Sierra Vista Drama Club to achieve this goal, and directed a total of 6 plays in my time, each requiring me to associate with a large amount of people in new and interesting ways. I can personally say that I delighted the lives of several hundreds of audience members in my time and I have MAPS to thank for this.

MAPS is more than just a college or ACT prep course: It’s a class in life itself. The skills and individuals I met will stay with me always. Always.

MAPS taught me more than how to be a good studier or test-taker: It taught me how to be a proper, motivated, and curious human being.

 


Are You Right For Me?

Many believe that participating in mentoring programs will automatically introduce them to someone who can help advance them in life. Thinking this way is valid, however, more goes into choosing a mentor than just the benefits they offer. If you are only looking to connect with a person who can help advance your career than I suggest go to a networking event. If you want someone to help guide you, listen to your issues, and influence decisions, than you are on the right path to finding a mentor.

First, I must acknowledge having multiple mentors is not harmful. Most think only one mentor is necessary while others would rather have multiple mentors to talk about varying issues. Personally, I grew up with multiple mentors who had different views. The different views helped me to see an issue from different perspectives. I made sure I was well informed by all my mentors before making a potential life changing decision. Obviously, deciding the adequate number of mentors is a personal decision and can only be made through self-reflection.

Mentoring programs are great at introducing members to mentors who have signed up to give back to the community. If one goes to introductory events through these programs, knowing what to look for is important. Even if you choose a mentor outside of these programs it is of great importance to know what qualities/traits you admire. Making sure your values and those of your mentors align is the only way the partnership will be effective. Again, know what qualities/traits you value will only be learned through self-reflection.

Having a mentor is a necessity. A mentor is someone who can help you fight through the tough moments in life. Or, a mentor is someone to give advice on any issue one will be faced with. Mentoring programs are a great source to introduce mentors/mentorees; they should not be used to find an individual to help in career/college advancement. Once the qualities/traits admired have been defined, the processes to find a mentor will be easier and more effective.


The Only Way is to Write

Writing is the most important tool many people do not posses in their figurative tool shed. I have wrote about college and career readiness before, what I did not address is properly constructing a sentence is the most important skill one could have. In every field of study and line of work writing will be involved; be it an intense research project or sending an email to a coworker or boss. If one does not know how to accurately express them through use of written word, than college and career readiness will elude them.

People are not just born being a great writer—granted, writing comes easier to some than others—people have work daily to become an effective writer. Writing should be considered how one would consider a sport. To become a good basketball player practice is required at least four times a week. Writing should also be practiced, if not everyday, at least write three times a week. I have found it helpful to keep a journal that details my day.

Another great way to improve writing skills is by reading. I understand in high school that there is tons of homework and extra curricular activities that take priority, however, reading a chapter a day of a book that interests you is not impossible. Seeing new words and writing styles will only improve one’s own writing abilities.

Creating a strong, effective email is not an easy task. It is a skill that needs to be mastered to find success in the workforce. Emails should not show off your grandiose knowledge of vocabulary or your limited knowledge of when to use the correct punctuation. Emails should be short, sweet, and get the point clearly across. If one can write a strong email they will be looked at more highly than the rest of the filed.

The most important tool for college and career readiness is writing. Having the ability to write clearly and concisely is a huge advantage. Practicing at least three times a week and reading at least for ten minutes a day is the only way to sharpen ones skills.


Find the Right Fit

To find a college is a not a hard decision once you have discovered who you are as a person and what you want to achieve. I am not talking about knowing the exact field of study to go into, however, knowing if a college can help take you to where you want to go is important. Each school has somewhat of a reputation, and usually those reputations are correct.

Treat a college like you would treat choosing which friends to hang out with. If a person does not share your same views or value what you value, then there would be no reason to be friends with this person—no common grounds. It is the same as a college, if a schools views do no align with your school then don’t go there. There will be no success by subjugating oneself to a school that does not support your values and vice versa.

Finding the right fit takes hours and hours of research. Visiting every college that you apply for should be a priority. Books and the Internet can only give factual information about a school. When choosing a college you want to go beyond the facts. Seeing for yourself how students interact with each other on campus, how classes are conducted, and the accessibility to professors is important—and this only comes from campus tours.

A schools reputation is important to take into account, its more important for you to decide if that reputation is correct. A school the represents your views and offers exactly what you are looking for is the right choice. Success will only happen if you feel comfortable with the school of your choice. The right fit means the student body fits your personality, are the academics rigorous or relaxed (do you want to be challenged academically), and the political views of the school align with yours.