LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Fifty high school students from South L.A. have earned a full-ride to USC thanks to the school’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) program.

The seven-year pre-college program was created for first-generation college-bound students, many who come from low-income families.

While grades and test scores are considered, acceptance into NAI is based on teacher recommendations, family commitment and personal motivation.

“It is a tough program, it is rigorous, it’s a long journey, but we see the success every year and tonight we celebrate that,” USC program director Lizette Zarate told CBS2’s Peter Daut.

Legendary actor Mark Hamill is one of the program’s sponsors and was at the USC campus to celebrate the soon-to-be USC students.

“The opportunity to give back is something I just can’t resist,” said Hamill. “I mean what would I be doing if I weren’t helping out?”

The NAI program began nearly three decades ago and its college graduation rate is 100 percent.

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