UCI financial literacy program for young teens gives incoming students the confidence, practical skills to pursue higher education

While transitioning from eighth grade to high school, Dyandra Magdaleno was going through a very difficult time in her young life.
A school counselor who was aware of her good grades suggested that the Santa Ana teen apply to the Pacific Life LIFEvest financial literacy program at UCI’s Paul Merage School of Business.

Now in its tenth year, the weeklong summer outreach effort is hosted by the business school’s Center for Investment and Wealth Management. It’s dedicated to teaching underserved, Southern California ninth- and 10th-graders with the potential to be first-generation college students the value of higher education, budgeting and saving. Additionally, the teens – who stay in UCI dorms and eat in campus dining halls – explore various career fields, hear from guest speakers, visit local businesses and learn social etiquette.

Magdaleno participated in the residential program in August of 2015. This fall, the Segerstrom High School graduate returned to UCI as an incoming freshman, the first in her family to go to college.

“I never thought I would get into such a prestigious school, but attending LIFEvest made me realize that I should never doubt who I am or what I’m capable of,” Magdaleno says. “My experience that summer gave me hope that no matter what I’ve gone through, I can tackle any obstacles that come my way."

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The program’s $2,100-per-person cost is covered by individual, corporate and community donations. Earlier this year, LIFEvest received a $2 million gift from the Pacific Life Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Newport Beach-based insurance company.

“We are overjoyed that the Pacific Life Foundation chose the LIFEvest program for this transformational gift,” says Christopher Schwarz, UCI associate professor of finance and faculty director of CIWM. “LIFEvest makes a huge impact in these young people’s lives. Not only does it provide important financial skills, but the residential component allows them to believe they belong in college. Over the course of the week, you can see a huge change in the students’ confidence and plans for their futures.”

Almost 500 teens have gone through the program so far. After participants’ week on campus, LIFEvest continues to assist them on their path to college through events and additional educational programming. Last year, LIFEvest alumni returned to UCI to learn more about the college application process and attend the homecoming basketball game.

Magdaleno came to campus in the fall of 2019 and credits LIFEvest. “I enjoyed finding out how to manage my money and have a plan,” she says. “Before LIFEvest, I didn’t know how to save money. Since then, I’ve created a savings account for college, which has helped me tremendously since I live in a single-parent household with my two younger sisters.”

At UCI, which was her first-choice school, she majors in psychological science, with the goal of becoming a child and family lawyer.

“I would like to thank everyone from the coordinator of LIFEvest to the sponsors for enabling me to grow in life,” Magdaleno says. “The program has shaped me in ways I could never have imagined. Without it, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in today.”

This past October, UCI launched an ambitious $2 billion campaign to fund scientific research, provide scholarships for students, advance healthcare innovations, and foster deeper explorations into our shared human experience.

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