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Celebrate 25 Years of The Preuss Promise April 27

A group of smiling middle and high school students huddle in a circle and join their hands in the center.
The Preuss School UC San Diego immerses middle and high school students from across San Diego in a college-bound culture that shapes confident world citizens, passionate achievers and effective problem-solvers who will change our world.

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The Preuss School UC San Diego makes a simple but weighty promise to each of its students: you will be prepared to succeed in college and career. With a population of students from low-income households set to become the first in their families to attend college, this pledge is not accepted without significant dedication from scholars and sacrifice from their families.

Students of the unique charter school commit to a rigorous single-track, college-preparatory curriculum, longer learning times, experiential internships and a college mentorship program. Furthermore, many of them travel to and from the La Jolla-based school from distant San Diego neighborhoods by car, bus, trolley or a combination of methods. Why? Because nearly 100% of Preuss graduates go on to receive a higher education.

On April 27, supporters are invited to the annual Preuss Promise benefit at The Preuss School. Attendees will get a glimpse of the invaluable transformations that have been taking place in the lives of students, families, alumni and communities since The Preuss School’s establishment 25 years ago. The crowd of UC San Diego leaders, philanthropists and friends will join the school in a celebration of its past, present and future. 

A history rooted in social responsibility

The year is 1992. The California Charter School Act is passed and Cecil Lytle is provost of UC San Diego’s Third College, now known as Thurgood Marshall College. Soon after, Lytle and other faculty begin to discuss the creation of a charter school for disadvantaged students.

Fast forward to 1996. Proposition 209 has passed and effectively eliminated affirmative action programs in California’s state entities — programs that were intended to increase opportunities for underrepresented groups. The decision has the UC community, like many others, waiting to see the effect on student diversity.

The push for a UC San Diego sponsored charter school really begins. 

Persistence and perseverance

Entrenched in political, social and moral debates heightened by Proposition 209, the charter school proposal was confronted by multiple challenges.

“It seemed to me that our institution, as a public institution, needed to create those same opportunities in the ethos of affirmative action,” said Lytle. “And, we believe we’ve done that with The Preuss School. It is a unique combination of the best practices in public education all at one site, all at one time, to produce academic excellence.”

three men standing together and smiling
Cecil Lytle, Hugh "Bud" Mehan and Robert Dynes, three central figures who helped create and establish The Preuss School UC San Diego.

By 1997, through difficulty, Chancellor Emeritus Bob Dynes saw that the charter school proposal was endorsed and approved by the UC San Diego Academic Senate, the San Diego Unified School District and the UC Board of Regents. All that was left was for UC San Diego to raise the funds to build it. Dynes recalls, “We raised the money to build this building in three months.”

First-generation success

In 1999, The Preuss School opened in portable buildings outside of Thurgood Marshall College. Lytle still remembers watching the first class walk off the buses from his office window. One of those students was Mabi Castro, the daughter of parents who immigrated from Mexico to Logan Heights.

A student in cap and gown with her family after graduation.
Mabi Castro with her family after graduating from The Preuss School UC San Diego.

Preuss alumni like Castro demonstrate the power of opportunity and a community that cares. As a Gates Millennium Scholar, she attended the University of California, Los Angeles, and studied abroad tuition free. She attributes her five-year, life-altering college experience to The Preuss School.

“Having the support of the community, having the support of UCSD, is part of what built my confidence as a student,” Castro said. “Very much to this day, that’s what I carry with me. I feel that I am a byproduct of all those programs and people that believed in me.”

Female standing in the California State Assembly Chamber
After graduating college, Mabi Castro began her career in government affairs.

Since graduating college, Castro has worked in government affairs, helping analyze and create policy in areas such as natural resources and education. In her current role as a legislative policy advisor for the County of San Diego, she continues to focus on giving back. “I want to make sure that any opportunity I can, I am advocating for resources to go to communities that need it most.”

Keeping the promise

Support raised from the annual Preuss Promise benefit ensures the school has resources to provide a transformative education. “It seems like a very small investment, in my mind, when you look at lives that are being changed. But the community really does have to help support this, and, in return, they should be really proud of what they accomplished,” said Dynes.

The Preuss Promise event will include a reception, dinner, program and opportunities to learn about scholars. Individual tickets are still available; please register here. For those interested in making a gift or who have questions about registration, please contact Lori Gremel, director of Development for The Preuss School, at 

The Preuss Promise is made possible thanks to the efforts of The Preuss School Board of Directors and members of the Honorary Committee, which include event chairs Erica Pascal and Michael Hostetler, and members K. Andrew Achterkirchen, Darcy and Robert Bingham; Cheryl and William Bramley; Lisa Barron and Rob Vasquez; Julia R. Brown; Mae W. Brown; Amy Chiu; Anne and Eric Chodorow; Maureen R. Dulbecco; Ann Parode Dynes and Robert C. Dynes; Kelly and Jeff Gehlhaar; Maria S. Grillo and Antonio Grillo-Lopez; The Preuss Family; Patricia and Christopher Weil; and Svetlana and Matthew Weil. In addition, corporate sponsors for the event include Qualcomm, Petco, General Atomics, KPBS, UC San Diego Extended Studies and Verizon.


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