The Colorado adventure with her afterschool program was the only ‘big trip’ Lovius had taken outside her hometown of North Miami, Florida, until this past summer. Once again, she represented the After-School All-Stars – this time at First Lady Michelle Obama’s Beating the Odds Summit in Washington D.C. There, she joined with 136 high school students from underserved communities to highlight the skills needed to graduate from high school and attend college.
After-School All-Stars connected Jessica Lovius with community and opportunity.
But even the visit to the White House was eclipsed by what was, perhaps her biggest trip of all – to Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. As a recipient of a four-year merit scholarship from the Posse Foundation the 18-year-old chemistry major joined nine other Miami-area student leaders and scholarship winners – her posse – as they experienced two-and-a-half weeks of ‘immersion’ on campus in preparation for their freshman year.
Like the After-school All-Stars, the Posse Foundation is dedicated to nurturing future leaders – particularly talented young people like Lovius, who might be missed by traditional academic identifiers.
‘I always wanted to go to college, but I worried about how I could ever fford it.’ Said Lovius, one of two sisters raised by a single parent. By the fourth grade – the year her mother fought for her to attend accelerated classes – it was clear she had the brains to follow that dream. But she was, she said, ‘quiet and shy.’
It was the After-School All-Stars South Florida program that brought the soft-spoken and self-effacing seventh-grader out of her shell an introduced her to opportunities like the Posse Foundation.
‘All my friends joined the All-Stars in sixth grade and kept pushing me to join, too,’ she said. Accepted into the program in seventh grade, she quickly grew to appreciate what it had to offer.
‘My mom worked after school, so it was really nice to have something to do. The All-Stars offered experiences that I would never have gotten anywhere else. And it was so important to me that it was free.’
Created in 1992 in Los Angeles After-School All-Stars provides comprehensive out-of-school programs for more than 72,000 participants at 326 Title 1 schools in 16 communities across the country. The Mott Foundation has provided almost $2.2 million in support of the All-Stars since 2004, including funds to help the organization launch a leadership training institute for its national Youth Advisory Board in 2010.
Though she remains hesitant to describe herself as a leader, Lovius rarely backs away from a challenge. During her first year as an All-Star, she was asked to write an essay on what the afterschool program meant to her. She was happy to do it.
What Lovius did not know is that her essay was submitted as part of a national competition that would end with her participation on the wilderness trip to Colorado. It was the first of several leadership opportunities she would embrace as she made her way through middle and high school.
Now, halfway through her freshman year of college, Lovius is mentoring a local seventh-grader, as girl as shy and quiet as she once was.
She’s also joined SISTERS, a campus group that provides support for women of all backgrounds and ethnicities and raises money for charitable projects.
‘I don’t’ think people can realize all they’ve done for me,’ My dream – someday – is to open a pediatric clinic back home. I can’t wait to give back.”