Investing Hope in Future Generations

Name: JC Lugo

Current Status: Alumni

Graduation Year: 2013

As the child of Mexican immigrants, JC Lugo’s (BA '13) native language is Spanish. "The challenge of maneuvering through the education system was quite daunting,"JC reflects on his personal journey to college. "However, I knew that continuing my education would help me be successful and allow me to one day serve the community that shaped me."

Lugo dived into the subject area that challenged him most, earning his college degree from HIU in English Literature. The struggles that came with learning a second language and being a first-generation college student have motivated JC to return and reinvest in the Los Angeles community where he grew up.

JC spent his first summer after graduation at Read Lead where he interned as a Servant Leader in Lynwood, CA. Read Lead is an educational initiative that provides literacy and leadership opportunities for youth and young adults in Los Angeles County. “The students I work with come from multiple backgrounds and varying levels of education; Hope really prepared me to interact with people from all walks of life. Through my experiences at HIU, I’m able to see and focus on each student’s humanity and their specific needs, not simply their background,” reflects Lugo. “I began to understand that serving those students is much more rewarding than serving myself.

"In my first summer with Read Lead I had a student that initially was very shy. She hardly spoke and would get defensive when I would ask a question. I later found out that her behavior was only masking her insecurities and low academic performance. She was going into 7th grade, but was reading at an elementary level. I worked with her a lot that summer and she slowly began to fall in love with reading.

"At our culmination ceremony she chose to recite a poem that she had written. She was moved to tears, and so was her mom, because of her growth and increased confidence. Fast-forward 4 years and now she’s thriving in high school as a junior. She is now one of our most dedicated volunteers and is now helping other students fall in love with reading, just as she has.

"If I’m able to leave my students feeling empowered and feel like they can accomplish their goals despite circumstances they may face, then I know I’m in the right place, doing the right thing."

JC continued to serve with Read Lead the following two summers as Site Coordinator in the city of Lynwood. Since the summer of 2016, JC has been honored to serve as the Project Director overseeing all 5 sites that Read Lead operates throughout the LA area and helping other young professionals discover their passion.

Additionally, during the academic year, JC worked for Lynwood Unified School District. His first year he taught in a traditional classroom. But one of his biggest challenges came his second-year teaching when he helped launch a new program with the district where he taught formerly incarcerated youth and/or youth that had interactions with the Juvenile Justice System. This is where he really began to question the structure of our education system and the societal barriers that challenge and affect youth of color.

JC spent the last 3 years working at the Coordinator of the Male Success Alliance (MSA) at CSU Dominguez Hills continuing to give him insight into the complex educational pipeline. The mission of MSA is to improve access, retention, and graduation rates of young men of color through academic support, professional development, and mentoring.

While he was teaching for Lynwood Unified and as he transitioned to CSU Dominguez Hills, JC also continued to serve his community by coaching at Bell Gardens High School, his alma mater. He coached for 4 seasons after he left Hope.

JC is now starting a PhD in Urban Schooling at UCLA. He hopes to continue engaging with schools and communities to find solutions to the pressing issues that students of color face.

"I know that God allowed me to experience what I did while I was growing up in order to better understand and serve these students and their families. I wake up every day and know that the work I do has high value and purpose."

"I know that God allowed me to experience what I did while I was growing up in order to better understand and serve these students and their families."