Former Student Donates $1 Million to High School in Arleta

"A year and a half later, he comes back to me and says, 'I'm ready to do this. And I'm committing to a million dollars.'"

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The New Year brings new hope.

For college-bound students at one Sun Valley school, a former student who graduated half a century ago has come back with a generous gift: a million dollars worth of education.

Jerry Kline's scholarship is the largest ever bestowed on a school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The 10 winners of the first $100,000 will be announced in the coming spring.

Kline graduated Francis Polytechnic High School in 1969.

The school's current principal, Elivia Vazquez, met "Jerry" Michael Kline a year and a half ago at the 50-year reunion for the Class of '69.

"He said, 'in high school, I was invisible,'" Vazquez recalled.

She showed him around campus, and they talked about how students still struggle with the cost of college. The principal said close to 90% are socio-economically disadvantaged, and only 40 out of 800 in Kline's class even went to a four-year college after graduation.


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After that meeting, the two kept in touch.

"He came to tell me that he 'wanted to help,"" Vazquez said, wondering what that meant.

She knew Kline had gone on to great success, with degrees from UCLA and UC Berkeley. He had a computer career in the Bay Area. But could a diploma from Poly have made that much of an impact?

Vasquez would soon have the answer.

"A year and a half later, he comes back to me and says, 'I'm ready to do this. And I'm committing to a million dollars,'" Vazquez shared.

"I'm glad to try to help them out," Kline recently said in an interview with the school's student-run television production crew.

With a smile that could light up a football field, he humbly explained why he's offering so much money.

"Poly High--and this area of Sun Valley in Arleta--are, will always be near and dear to my heart," Kline said.

Kline added that he could relate to the challenges students face here.

"In financial terms, it's always been -- has always been -- an obstacle," Kevin Chicas, a Polytechnic High School student who dreams of studying abroad, said.

"It warms my heart to know that there's someone out there who is willing to help us," Kyle Marisse-Aguizola, another Poly student, said.

Ten graduating seniors will receive $10,000 for their first year in college. They can re-apply for $10,000 more every successive year.

Kline did insist on two things, however.

First, applicants must "move away" for college.

"Not necessarily out-of-state, but away from the area," Kline said, saying moving away helped him learn about the world and contributed to his success.

He also wants students to "pay it forward," as Jocelyn Hercules-Amaya plans to do because she admires her Poly teachers.

"They helped shape me be who I am -- so, I want to, I want to be a teacher," Hercules-Amaya said.

Fifty years after graduating high school, the kid who "felt invisible" is now the talk of Poly High School. A successful student from the past is helping create a brighter future.

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