22 Apr Meet Susan, Mentor & Supporter of our Students
The LA Promise Fund is able to serve tens of thousands of students across LA County each year through partnerships with fellow nonprofit and community-based organizations, like-minded individuals, and foundations.
Susan Kozlowski is both a like-minded individual and the trustee of the Robert and Susan Kozlowski L.I.F.T. Foundation, where “Learning Inspires Freedom Tomorrow.”
Since beginning her work in 2009, the L.I.F.T. Foundation has supported 45 students, providing scholarships and mentorships to help these students successfully get into and graduate from college. She reports that 100 percent of the L.I.F.T. Scholars who have finished college have earned a job in their field of interest and/ or acceptance to graduate school. The foundation’s financial commitment in L.I.F.T. Scholarships to students from LA Promise Fund high schools has exceeded $250,000.
How does she get such amazing results?
“The formula for success is financial support + mentorship + a drive to success,” says Susan. She is committed to these students’ success – to change the statistics for first-in-their-family young people to complete college with a job they love.
When she talks about them, it’s clear how much each student’s success means to her on a personal level. As a lifelong educator, Susan works closely with each L.I.F.T. Scholar, encouraging them to find what inspires them and to pursue those goals. She helps them look for internships, write resumes and cover letters, conduct job searches, and, along with more senior L.I.F.T. Scholar peer mentors, encourages their engagement in extracurricular activities so they feel more a part of the college community. She also gets to know their families. “It’s important to me that their families know who I am, that they gain trust in me,” she explains. “It’s important to me that they know I respect them and everything they have done and sacrificed in their life so their children get these opportunities. And I care with all my heart and soul about their child.”
How did she come to work with the LA Promise Fund?
Susan learned about the LA Promise Fund (then LA’s Promise) when she moved back to Southern California, from Indiana, in 2012. She realized that through a partnership with the organization she could bring grants and scholarships to LAUSD teachers and students, respectively. She spent one day shadowing Veronica Melvin, our CEO, and was “very impressed.” From there, she began working with students at Manual Arts High School.
“On that first day I was in the College Center,” she explains, “a group of prospective L.I.F.T. Scholars came in. I just started telling them about the opportunities. They lit up. I felt their hearts beat. I knew I had to be here.”
Susan now works with students from both Manual Arts and West Adams Preparatory High School.
Why does she do this work? “I believe very strongly that education is our answer to hatred, division, ignorance – particularly in this time we’re living right now,” she says. “When you’re educated and interacting with others and you have the security of learning, you will rise. You will be on an equal footing. I believe in providing the opportunity, and with the opportunity and mentorship support, young people will soar. The building blocks have to be there. Sometimes we’ve had to take steps back, to provide mental support and/or tutoring. I’m trying to have students graduate healthy in mind, body, and soul. When they graduate, I want them to be clear on their initial career choice, with the understanding that it’s a long journey of life. They have the tools to make those decisions. And they have something no one can ever take away – their college degree and the life experience.”
But in the end, she adds, “They teach me more than I could ever teach them.”
If you know of or work with a community organization or foundation committed to bringing high value opportunities to schools and students in underserved communities, please contact us. We’re always looking to grow the impact of our work through strategic partnerships.
For more about the L.I.F.T. Foundation – www.rsklift.org
Read about one of Susan’s students, Lonnell, here.