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Fulfillment Fund-iConnectX

Fulfillment Fund

6100 Wilshire Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90048

About Fulfillment Fund View Leadership 17 Add Leadership 17

As a college access organization, the Fulfillment Fund is dedicated to making college a reality for students growing up in educationally and economically under-resourced communities. Through classroom instruction, college counseling, mentoring and scholarships, we transform the lives of students, beginning in high school and extending to college graduation. Our impact spans beyond the students we serve directly. They, in turn, influence siblings, peers and their community by becoming role models, volunteers, mentors and donors. Our History When the Fulfillment Fund began in 1977, we never dreamed we could eventually empower more than 20,000 young people through the power of mentorship and ed...  Show More>>

As a college access organization, the Fulfillment Fund is dedicated to making college a reality for students growing up in educationally and economically under-resourced communities.

Through classroom instruction, college counseling, mentoring and scholarships, we transform the lives of students, beginning in high school and extending to college graduation.

Our impact spans beyond the students we serve directly. They, in turn, influence siblings, peers and their community by becoming role models, volunteers, mentors and donors.

Our History

When the Fulfillment Fund began in 1977, we never dreamed we could eventually empower more than 20,000 young people through the power of mentorship and education. This number continues to grow as the Fulfillment Fund’s services evolve to meet the ever-increasing concern of educational inequality. So, how did the Fulfillment Fund as we know it today come to fruition? Check out this timeline to learn more about our 40-year history.

THE 70s

1973 – Gary Gitnick, M.D., a doctor at UCLA Medical Center, decides to sponsor an end-of-the-year holiday party for children with disabilities. His staff have as much fun as the kids do, and from this experience Dr. Gitnick’s idea for the Fulfillment Fund was born.

1977 – Incorporated as a non-profit in 1977, the early Fulfillment Fund mission focuses on the needs of young children and teenagers with disabilities. A career day, leadership camp, introductions to adult mentors with similar abilities, and other events encourage a growing number of young people to dream big and reach for the stars.

THE 80s

1982 – Over time, a troubling pattern becomes clear: Los Angeles students are falling through the cracks due to under-resourced schools and communities. The Fulfillment Fund broadens its mission to include students of all abilities, and in the mid-1980s starts to provide college scholarships and motivational events to youth from under-resourced communities. Students are matched with adult role models during events, and these role model-student pairs often stay in touch throughout the year.

1988 – Andrea Cockrum joins the Fulfillment Fund as Executive Director and the first full-time staff member.

THE 90s

1991 – The Friends of the Fulfillment Fund auxiliary support group is founded by Cherna Gitnick.

1991 – The Fulfillment Fund begins to focus on ensuring high school graduation as well as access to, and completion of, a college education. The role model program is formalized into a full Mentor Program.

1995 – College counseling services are formalized, along with scholarship and internships for students.

1996 – The Fulfillment Fund begins providing classroom-based instruction to prepare students for college, and our college readiness workshop day, Destination College, is hosted for the first time.

1998 – The Fulfillment Fund is named the best community-based mentoring program in California by the California Mentoring Initiative.

1999 – The Fulfillment Fund Alumni Association is formed. Today, the group provides ongoing support, networking opportunities, events and more to Fulfillment Fund alumni who have graduated high school.

THE 2000s

2002 – The Fulfillment Fund celebrates its 25th Anniversary.

2012 – Fulfillment Fund opens a new college access program in Las Vegas to serve the needs of the students at two Title I partner high schools. Today, Fulfillment Fund Las Vegas serves 1,700 high students and has awarded $742,500 in scholarships to students in two-year, four year and certificate programs.

2015 – A Digital Badging program is piloted to help inspire students get college-ready by participating in an online suite of workshops, educational games and videos.

2017 The Fulfillment Fund celebrates 40 years of empowering youth through education.

Present Day – Today, the Fulfillment Fund’s wide array of programs serve more than 3,000 students a year in Los Angeles.

Our Founders’ Story

In 1977, Dr. Gary Gitnick founded the Fulfillment Fund to help support the dreams of youth in need. Little did he know that over the course of more than 40 years, his creation would empower tens of thousands of Los Angeles students.

The Earliest Years

The story of the Fulfillment Fund begins much earlier than its founding years, when Dr. Gitnick was a young boy growing up in a low-income community in Omaha, Nebraska. He did not like school or studying, but he also did not love his neighborhood. Very few of his peers had ambitions for getting out or going to college, despite how smart they were. “There was a lot of violence,” Dr. Gitnick shared. “You could not walk down to the next block without worrying about getting roughed up. I knew that if I stayed, my life would go in a direction I did not want. It was then that I decided that I had to do something to get out of there. And the answer for me was education.”

He threw all of his energy into working hard in school, even though he admits he was not a “good student.” His perseverance paid off, and he earned the grades he needed to get into the University of Chicago and eventually, Johns Hopkins University.

In college, his love of learning grew. Finances were tight, but thanks to scholarship funds, he was able to focus on school without worrying about how he was going to afford the next year. “I got an excellent education and it never cost me a nickel. I have always been very, very grateful for that,” said Dr. Gitnick. While continuing his education, he worked in the Department of Pathology, was the deaner’s assistant in the morgue and helped with autopsies, and took photos of microscopic cells that were later used for teaching purposes.

Along the way he met his future wife, Cherna, as well as incredible role models who ultimately helped shape his career, connected him to internship opportunities, and opened doors for years to come. Dr. Gitnick said, “All of us need people to help empower us get ahead in life – and I certainly did.” The lasting impact of his education and mentors was never far from his mind.

A Life-Changing Vision

In 1969, Dr. Gitnick and his wife, Cherna, moved to Los Angeles and he joined the faculty at the University of California. He worked in a very active area of medical research with a large laboratory department. “In those days,” he remarked, “you were expected to host a lavish party at Christmas-time. You invited the staff and their families, it was catered, you had live entertainment and very nice decorations – but it was very costly!”

The Gitnicks had a modest income at the time, and as Dr. Gitnick wrote a check for his third annual holiday party, he looked at the number at the end of his pen. “That’s an awful lot of money for a party!” he remembered thinking. He told his staff the very next day that they would host a party for the same amount of money, but that it would go toward a different purpose. Instead, their holiday party would be for local children with disabilities.

This single event sparked Dr. Gitnick’s vision to create a small mentoring organization, initially designed for children with disabilities. He knew how much he had gained from positive role models in his past, and wanted every young person to realize their full potential, too – especially if they had been told by someone else, or society at large, that they had a limited future. The Fulfillment Fund was born, and it became the first role modeling organization of its kind in the country.

A Mission of Mentorship and Education

As the Fulfillment Fund’s work continued in Los Angeles, a troubling pattern came to light: too many students from low-income communities were falling through the cracks and not making it to college. Many were not even graduating from high school.

Remembering his own education journey, Dr. Gitnick pivoted to meet this critical need, expanding the Fulfillment Fund to serve children of all abilities and adding high school completion and college readiness to the organization’s mission. The Fulfillment Fund added a college scholarship program, which began in 1989. Dr. Gitnick’s story was starting to come full-circle.

In 1991, Cherna Gitnick founded the Friends of the Fulfillment Fund: a women’s auxiliary group that raised crucial funds. Soon, the Friends began hosting annual fundraising luncheons which went on for more than ten years, and later transformed these events into new and creative initiatives such as “Songs of Our Lives” and the Fulfillment Fund Author and Artist Series, which helped raise critical funds for scholarships and the organization.

The Fulfillment Fund added a formalized mentor program in 1992, followed by the organization’s first college counseling program in 1995. As the years continued, the Gitnicks’ vision expanded to include classroom instruction, financial aid support, college trips, and experiential learning opportunities.

Today, the Fulfillment Fund’s mission to empower students to graduate from high school, get into college, and earn their degree continues to change lives. Beyond the classroom, the Fulfillment Fund Alumni Association offers workshops and networking opportunities, and the programs team is adding a growing array of career-focused services that will change the game for new graduates.

At each step of the way, the Gitnicks have been there to build connections, help fundraise and make each forward-thinking dream a reality. We are immeasurably grateful for their vision, generosity, and dedication to the youth of Los Angeles.

Dr. Gitnick is the Emeritus Chief of the Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and headed up one of the largest gastroenterology divisions in the world. Dr. Gitnick is former president of the Medical Board of California, former chief of staff of the UCLA Medical Center and was medical director of the UCLA Health Care Programs. Cherna and Dr. Gitnick live in Los Angeles and have been married for 55 years. They have four children, seven grandchildren, and are avid collectors of contemporary glass art.

Learn more about our founders’ story by watching our Legacy of Changing Lives video.

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