Sean L. Washington’s Preparing for a Degree Academy (PFD Academy) is a labor of love. Established in 1996, PFD Academy is the realization of one man’s dream to assist at-risk children in the achievement of a better future via higher education and beneficial life skills. He feels that ALL students are at risk of academic failure. Using his own life experiences, Mr. Washington uses the combination of academic rigor and practical reality application within the structure of PFD Academy. The key to the program lies in the realization by both student and parents that hard work and mutual support provide a better future. Mr. Washington grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Long Beach, California, that emphasized athletics and more or less disregarded academics. While an exceptional athlete, Mr. Washington was told that his grades and SAT scores were too low to help him get into college. Showing the determination that would later shape his future, Mr. Washington sought out a method to achieve his dream of a college education. Refusing to be deterred, he retook his SAT’s, with dramatic improvement, and earned a basketball and baseball scholarship. These scholarships, along with a combination of loans and grants, allowed Mr. Washington to graduate from Christ College of Irvine, now Concordia University. Mr. Washington began his career in the field of human resources with high-tech companies in Orange County. After having been away for a few years, Mr. Washington visited his old neighborhood in Long Beach. Mr. Washington saw that many of his friends, some of whom were more gifted athletically than he, were still right where he had left them years earlier. They had never learned the scholastic skills necessary to get ahead in life nor how to become a part of the world that awaited them after high school and, ultimately, how to create successful futures for themselves. As the first in his family to graduate from college, Mr. Washington appreciated the difficulty of attaining a higher education thanks to the determination and persistence that college required. It was then that Mr. Washington realized that he had something to offer the youth of his community that were in the same predicament that he had been in when he was applying for college. The birth of PFD Academy arose from this single concept: Every student benefits from improved study skills, proper life lessons, and self-discipline. The program gives students the tools they need to (1) get into college and (2) perform college-level work to successfully complete their degrees. In their quest to prepare for the challenges of attending college and to ultimately graduate from college, PFD Academy’s lessons teach the students to succeed before, during, and after college. Students from the 5th to 12th grades participate in a form of educational boot camp where they learn organizational and study skills and character development. Mr. Washington feels that the sooner a student is held accountable for his or her educational progress, the better the results. Parental involvement is both required and essential to the program’s success. PFD Academy’s growth has been dramatic. In 1996, PFD Academy began with 10 students in the 8th and 9th grades in the Long Beach school district. In 1997, the program had expanded to 25 students and had added the 10th and 11th grades. In 1999, PFD Academy had assisted 89 students in grades 5 through 12 and had its first high school student graduate and be admitted into college. By the spring of 2001, PFD Academy had enrolled 156 students and had extended the program to include the Garden Grove, Carson, and Redondo school districts. Over 700 PFD Academy students have gone on to graduate college, many with scholarships. Most of the students were first-generation students to graduate college in their families. PFD Academy intends to admit 100 to 150 students for 2017-2018. By raising students’ expectations and self-esteem, Mr. Washington has brought a college education within the grasp of hundreds of young people in Southern California. That is one reason Mr. Washington was chosen as the first Alumnus of the Year by Concordia University in 2003. He also received the Local Hero Award from the Tiger Woods Foundation and the Community Hero Award from The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. PFD Academy has been further honored by the Special Olympics as an Outstanding Volunteer Organization. The Boys and Girls Club of Garden Grove recognized PFD Academy as their Outstanding After-School Program. It is the goal of PFD Academy to help our students grow personally and academically. With hard work, guidance, and support, the students will become professionals.