Striving for Equity in College Access and Completion

By Giving List Staff   |   September 28, 2021

Joanne Reyes knows firsthand how important a college education is in building opportunity and wealth in immigrant and disadvantaged communities.

Born in Manila, Reyes, chief executive officer of Fulfillment Fund, was the first in her Chinese-Filipino family to complete college in the U.S.  During her time at a high-performing magnet high school in the San Fernando Valley, Reyes noticed that some of her classmates felt supported and found their way to college, while others did not. 

“Education is a public good. We all benefit from having a more educated workforce,” Reyes says. “So why aren’t we putting greater resources toward more students having equitable access to postsecondary education?”

Fulfillment Fund, one of Los Angeles’ oldest and largest college access and completion nonprofits, helps students from low-income communities and first-generation households — primarily students of color — get into, finance, and finish college. 

It targets high-need high schools and serves some 3,000 students in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area each year. 

With an eye toward equity, the nonprofit is open to every student at each school they serve without restrictions on students’ GPA or their family’s financial or documentation status. Unlike other college access organizations, Fulfillment Fund not only helps students get into a best-fit college, but helps them graduate while becoming career ready. 

“So many students graduate college with little to no job experience in their chosen career field,” Reyes explains. “We want our students to land softly in the job marketplace so that they can take the next step to uplift themselves and their families.”

Fulfillment Fund alumnus Johnny Ruiz was a first-generation college student that the nonprofit worked with throughout high school. He received one of the organization’s scholarships, was accepted to and graduated from UCLA, interned with the nonprofit, and ultimately served on its Alumni Association Board. He was recently inducted to UC Davis’ Medical School donning a white coat and stethoscope. 

“To me, he is a huge success story,” Reyes says. “Our impact on him and his family is lasting. He has a younger sister that went through our program as well, who also graduated from UCLA. And, he will go on to be an incredible role model for many other students from similar backgrounds.”

The nonprofit doesn’t only push a four-year college agenda; it also supports those interested in starting out at community college. Since the start of the pandemic, more of their students have had financial pressure to earn money for their household or take care of younger siblings as their parents take on more jobs. 

In the next year, Fulfillment Fund will ramp up efforts to rebuild connections with students and reignite their dreams despite their ongoing pandemic losses.

“I think that’s what gets lost in the shuffle of survival,” Reyes says. “For young people, it’s so important that they dream. It’s our role to help them re-engage in their dreams and help pursue them.”


Fulfillment Fund

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(323) 900-8721
Chief Executive Officer: Joanne Reyes


Fulfillment Fund works to make college a reality for students growing up in educationally and economically under-resourced communities. Together, we build pathways to college, navigate educational barriers, create support networks, and empower future leaders.

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Education is such a critical building block for young people, especially from communities with less access to resources, on their journeys in life. Fulfillment Fund has been creating opportunities with and for students in L.A. for decades. Their support, expertise, and caring have never been more vital than now when so much has happened to disrupt students’ pathways to their goals and dreams.
Eric Esrailian, MD, MPH

Making College a Reality

Fulfillment Fund has launched an end-of-year giving campaign that aims to raise $750,000 for its vital programs. The nonprofit works with high school students as early as ninth grade to build awareness about college possibilities and to teach skills that help them get into college and finance their education. The organization’s College Counselors provide targeted support, helping 11th- and 12th-grade students identify and gain admission to their best-fit schools, while securing vital financial aid and scholarships. Once enrolled in college, a College Success Advisor works with them one-on-one to ensure they continue making progress toward earning their degree while balancing jobs and responsibilities. They also have access to career readiness workshops and peer mentors, who help them navigate their campus and build community.

“First-generation students not only need practical know-how to help them succeed in college. They also need to feel connected — to peers, to professors, and their journey,” Fulfillment Fund CEO Joanne Reyes says. “They need a sense of belonging in order to thrive.”

Key Supporters

The Ahmanson Foundation
Pamela Buffett
California Community Foundation
The Capital Group Companies
Charitable Foundation
Conrad L. Hilton Foundation
Eric and Melina Esrailian
Cherna and Gary Gitnick, MD
Mark Gordon
Jana and Randall Greer
Johnny Carson Foundation
Charlie and JoAnn Kaplan
Josh Klinefelter
Los Angeles Rams
Chip and Kathleen Rosenbloom
Bobby Shriver
Wendy and Harlan Spinner
Mary Ann Todd
United Way of Greater Los Angeles
W.M. Keck Foundation