Our Story

A Mission
Rooted in Equity

The mission of Thrive Scholars is to help high-achieving, low-income underrepresented students get into and graduate from top colleges equipped to achieve their full career potential.



Our History

Supporting Black Scholars from the Start

Thrive Scholars began as a scholarship program focused on high-achieving low-income Black and African American students in South Central Los Angeles who were the first in their family to go to college. Established in 2001 under the name South Central Scholars (SCS) by philanthropists James and Patricia London, we quickly realized the need for a multi-stage, integrated program of support.

In addition to Black students, SCS soon began supporting Latinx, Indigenous, and other Scholars of color throughout college with scholarships, academic intervention, academic and social-emotional support, and career guidance and networking. Within a few years, we yielded impressive results: 90% of Scholars (many of whom were first-gen) were attending Harvard, Brown, Williams, USC, and other very selective schools were graduating within 6 years.

Using Data to Innovate

Our focus and methods have always been data-driven. Our Scholars were graduating at rates far beyond the national average. But when we looked closer, we found a large percentage of our Scholars were transitioning out of their intended majors and were unable to find jobs after graduation that matched their passions.

After reviewing college transcripts, it became clear that, despite having excelled in high school, many of our Scholars were entering college without the college-level writing, math, and science skills needed to persist in their chosen majors.

Changing the Narrative

To reverse this trend, we launched our pilot session of Summer Academy in 2012 to provide an intense academic boot camp for high school juniors and seniors to participate. After these new programmatic innovations, our results were impressive: More than 90% of our Scholars were attending top colleges, compared to less than 50% of their peers, and over 65% of Scholars pursuing STEM majors were able to persist and graduate in their major, compared to 20% of similar students.

In 2014, we decided to replicate the program in Boston, under the name Noonan Scholars, as a pilot for further expansion. After three years of successful outcomes in Boston, we went national, under the SCS Noonan Scholars flag. We expanded our program to other cities across the nation, introduced an East Coast Summer Academy, and substantially increased the number of Scholars we admit into our program annually.

Achieving Extraordinary Futures

In 2020, we became Thrive Scholars, reflecting our commitment and dedication to helping our Scholars thrive in college and their chosen careers. Thrive Scholars is rooted in our clear conviction that where talented students of color are concerned, our society needs a new goal, a new way forward.

As we embark on the next stage in our journey — expanding to new cities and growing the number of students we serve by more than 300% — our name speaks to the future and exemplifies the core of our work.