She stands just 5 foot 2, with a slight frame and soft voice, but to her family, Alfa Lopez is a giant. The Los Angeles teen lives in a low-income area where teenagers are tempted by drugs and the high school drop-out rate is 50 percent. As she matter-of-factly puts it, "It's not the best neighborhood." Lopez, though, has big plans and big dreams.
This 16-year-old has her sights set on becoming the first member of her family to go to college. "I try to get straight A's to make my family proud," she told ABC News, "and to show myself that I can do this and that I can work hard."
She is succeeding with the help of an innovative program run by the University of Southern California. Called the Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI), the program offers intensive classes and tutoring to hundreds of low-income children who live in the shadow of the university.
"It's a long road believe me," said Kim Thomas-Barrios, who is the program's executive director. "We start with them in the sixth grade."