As a high school student at Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnets, Jelani Mora knew he wanted to go to college, but he wasn’t sure where to start and what he needed to do. Since he would be the first in his family to attend college, the idea felt pretty daunting, from preparing and paying for his college entrance exams to navigating the applications for federal Pell Grants and scholarships. Fortunately, he found guidance and help from some UCLA students, who served as mentors and motivated him to pursue higher education.
Mora met with students every week as part of UCLA’s Vice-Provost’s Initiative for Pre-College Scholars, or VIPS program, which partners with Los Angeles County school districts to help students become competitively eligible for admission to UCLA and other top universities. As part of the program, Mora didn’t just meet with UCLA students every week to review things like admission requirements, he also spent two summers taking college classes on campus, where he learned the value of a college degree.