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Students Celebrate Continued Success at the NAC's 6th Annual Thanksgiving Dinner
December 18, 2014
The Nicholas Academic Centers (NAC) celebrated the success of its students on Monday, November 24, at the NAC’s 6th Annual Thanksgiving Dinner Celebration at Valley High School in Santa Ana. The 450-plus people in attendance included NAC students and alumni, family members, community leaders, and high school and college faculty and administrators.
 
Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM) Co-Founder and former CEO Dr. Henry T. Nicholas, III, opened the evening by commending students for surpassing national averages in College Enrollment and Retention Rates. Dr. Nicholas noted that through time statistics have shown that the NAC program works: “The national rate for baccalaureate degree completion is 55%. At the NAC, most of the students are Hispanic, and the national rate for Hispanic students is 46%. [The NAC’s] 5-year graduation rate is 80%, but our students have not dropped out. They’re still working.”
 
Retired Superior Court Judge and NAC Co-Founder, Jack K. Mandel, also shared a few words during the dinner celebration. After pausing to give thanks for the support parents have given NAC students, Judge Mandel turned his attention to the students and how they have caught the attention of colleges and universities: “Those of you who will give your after school hours are going to college. The colleges, good colleges, from all over America are coming to the Nicholas Academic Centers to compete to get you to honor their schools with your attendance in the future.” This fall, representatives from more than 20 colleges, including Georgetown University, University of Chicago, University of Notre Dame, Haverford College, and Princeton University, visited the NAC to meet with students.
 
Santa Ana Unified School District Superintendent, Dr. Richard L. Miller, gave thanks for the positive impact the NAC and its students have made in Santa Ana. Dr. Miller stated, “As it’s a time of Thanksgiving, I have to say I’m blessed to be here in Santa Ana. You students are also blessed with a tremendous opportunity, but the only opportunity that works is when you put something into it.” Dr. Miller encouraged students to continue working hard, and said he plans to work with the NAC to figure a way to grow the program to help even more students who would benefit from the NAC’s services.
 
City of Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, who has attended all six of the NAC’s Thanksgiving Dinner Celebrations, asked that students also remember to give back to the community: “Many of you will be successful, and you have to remember to give back because ultimately, as we get older, what we have are memories, and the best memories of all are of when you’re helping somebody else.”
 
During the dinner, two current NAC students and an alumna shared how the NAC has impacted their lives. Class of 2015 NAC Scholar Raymond Santana gave thanks for food, friends, and family, and the great weather in Southern California. Raymond also thanked the NAC’s tutors and Higher Education Services for helping students work toward achieving their academic and personal goals, every day. Class of 2015 NAC Scholar Concepcion Perez credited the NAC for giving her the confidence she needed to apply to and attend an intensive, two-week "Pre-College" program at the University of Notre Dame in June. Finally, Class of 2012 NAC Scholar, Katrina Linden, now a junior at the University of Notre Dame, shared how her experience at the NAC and at Notre Dame has inspired her to consider working in the non-profit sector after graduating college so that she, too, can give back to her community. According to Katrina, “My experience with the Nicholas Academic Centers and growing up in Santa Ana has forced me to recognize my deep need to help others.”
 
Before the Thanksgiving Dinner Celebration came to a close, Rosa Diaz, Chief Officer of Operations & Programs for the NAC, thanked Dr. Nicholas and Judge Mandel for making the NAC possible. “The 479 students who are already out of the door and have already made it are only part of the picture. There are 433 students that are still here and will go out, and there are another 200 waiting to get in. If you look at those numbers, before you know it, we’ll hit 1,000, and without [Dr. Nicholas’ and Judge Mandel’s] vision, we would not have been able to do what we do.”