How one Trojan paid it forward all along the path to her USC degree
Alyssa Young, an alumna of the USC Leslie and William McMorrow Neighborhood Academic Initiative, attended USC Dornsife as a fellow in the Norman Topping Student Aid Fund. (Photo: Courtesy of Alyssa Young.)

How one Trojan paid it forward all along the path to her USC degree

Alyssa Young found support from USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative and the Norman Topping Student Aid Fund. She, in turn, helped others find their way.
BySaúl García

As Alyssa Young graduates from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, she walks away with her Bachelor of Arts in philosophy, politics and law — along with minors in Spanish and law and public policy — as well as the satisfaction that she has given back to the university that has done so much to support her.

Young’s journey with USC began in middle school when she was accepted as a scholar in the USC Leslie and William McMorrow Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) and continued as a freshman when she was admitted as a fellow in the Norman Topping Student Aid Fund.

Young, the daughter of immigrants and a first-generation college student, knew from an early age that education was her path to success. Young said her mother, Loja Moses, insisted on it, telling her, “You’re going to college, no doubt about it. I don’t care what you study — do what you are passionate about — but you are going to school.”

Topping and NAI helped with the financial burden, Young said, but they also gave her a sense of belonging. “I had a community that really helped me,” she said.

That foundation and reinforcement fueled Young’s desire to care for her community and for those “coming behind me.” She volunteered as an academic adviser for NAI and at nearby Foshay Learning Center, recognizing the importance of representation and hoping that her academic success would inspire other students from underrepresented communities. She helped guide high school students through the college application process, advised them on navigating financial aid programs and shared her contact information with those she mentored, making sure they knew they had a resource, advocate and safety net.

Young also made a difference within the Topping program. During the pandemic, she spearheaded the creation of Black Excellence at Topping, a social group that provided a space and special programs, including access to therapists and well-being advocates, to help Black students who were feeling disconnected.

McDuffie Medallion

At the recent 50th anniversary celebration of the Topping program, Young received the McDuffie Medallion, awarded to a student who has demonstrated service to the university or the community surrounding USC.

The racial strife of recent years — and especially the stories about detention centers and minors separated from their parents at the border — influenced Young’s worldview and shaped her career choice. She will begin law school in the fall at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Being a child of immigrants myself and coming from a family of immigrants, it is near and dear to my heart,” Young said.

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