Former SAGE Scholar Lonneshia Webb ’08, who now works at KIPP L.A. Public Schools, mentors and helps raise funds for the UCI program, which assists undergraduates with significant financial need in planning for graduate school, searching for careers, and obtaining internships and scholarships. Laurel Hungerford Photography

In the fall of 2004, Lonneshia Webb found herself in an unfamiliar and daunting environment: UCI. The first-generation college student, who grew up in Compton and Bellflower, had chosen to attend the university because undergraduates didn’t need to declare a major until their junior year.

“I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I liked that I could take the first few years to decide,” Webb says, adding that she was also “really impressed with the wireless internet in Aldrich Park.”

And she quickly discovered a coping mechanism that worked for her. “As I was the first in my family to go to this big institution, it was scary,” Webb says, “but becoming involved really helped me find my place at UCI.”

She joined the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc., the mentorship organization Women and Youth Supporting Each Other, the Black Student Union, and the Student Achievement Guided by Experience Scholars Program.

The SAGE Scholars Program began in 1999 to assist undergraduates with significant financial need in planning for graduate school, searching for careers, and obtaining internships and scholarships.

It helped Webb find her direction in life. “SAGE was very influential,” she says. “I got an internship at the Tiger Woods Foundation, and that was where I started to work with students.”

Through the foundation’s Learning Center in Anaheim, Webb cultivated a passion for helping others. “I began meeting teens with exceptional grades who felt they couldn’t get into the colleges they wanted,” she says.

After graduating from UCI in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology & social behavior, Webb went on to earn a master’s in education, with an emphasis in school counseling, at USC.

Today she works at KIPP L.A. Public Schools as associate director of the KIPP Through College program, which aims to ensure that more than 80 percent of the charter schools’ alumni go on to attend – and graduate from – college.

“Without UCI, I would never have thought about a career in education,” says Webb, who now supports the SAGE Scholars Program philanthropically. “But I learned how powerful it is to help others, and it drove me to want to give back to students who come from backgrounds like mine.”

Neda Moayedi, director of the SAGE Scholars Program, says: “We are grateful for Lonneshia’s generosity. As a proud SAGE alum, she has mentored our students interested in careers in education. She has also been part of a campaign to raise funds for us to partner with Working Wardrobes in order for our current scholars to receive specialized professional development workshops, along with a complimentary professional outfit.

“Dedicated alumni like Lonneshia have a huge impact in helping our students reach for their American dreams. Their mentorship and financial contributions to SAGE allow us to develop meaningful programming and internship opportunities for our scholars to develop important life skills, whether they’re continuing their education or starting their careers.”