Helping student youth

A Newport Beach-based global investment firm has reached into its pockets and donated $25,000 to a charter high school in Santa Ana for at-risk students.

Employees at Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMCO), which employs 1,300 worldwide, have volunteered their time and skills to teach the students about the art of managing their money.

The special class at the charter school, Olive Crest's NOVA Academy Early College High School, is called "Tools for Tomorrow."

PIMCO's display of generosity took place on Friday, when 22 seniors, decked in caps and gowns, graduated from the high school.

"We've been extraordinarily impressed with the work being done at the academy to educate, motivate and inspire at-risk students," said Mark Porterfield, the investment firm's executive vice president. "The students go on to lead productive and thoughtful lives."

Each year the firm donates money to a variety of nonprofits. PIMCO rewards organizations like Olive Crest, which serves abused children, saying that hard work in "creating better communities and improving the quality of life" is not going unnoticed.

The founder of Olive Crest and NOVA, Donald Verleur, presented PIMCO employees with the "Soaring Eagle" trophy during the graduation ceremony, saying the investment firm's class was a popular and important one.

"It's difficult to express the depth of our gratitude," said Verleur. "They've taught our students so much about financial responsibility, and they've been a fantastic example of visionary leadership and social conscience."

The employees at the investment firm who volunteered their work in the classroom were Howard Chan, Chris Kemp, Erika Lowe, Sarah Middleton, Nishant Upadhyay and Matt Woods. Over the course of the last year, they've taught the teenagers the advantages of financial responsibility, including banking, saving, investing and buying insurance.

School salutatorian Jose Benitez was the first in his family to graduate from high school.

"This was an incredibly exciting day for me and for my family," said Benitez, who will attend Cal State Fullerton in the fall. "NOVA made a huge difference not only in my life, but in the lives of my parents, who are so proud to see me become the first high-school graduate in the family."

In 2005, Donald and Lois Verleur created NOVA, an academy that stands for New Opportunities for Visionary Academics. Its purpose is to promote a culture of high academic performance and encourage logical and critical thinking, said Alison Hill, a spokeswoman for the school on West Fifth Street in Santa Ana.

Registrations for next year are still being accepted for the fall. For more information on the school and how to apply, contact Dennis Eastman or Nina Cull at (714) 569-0948 or visit NOVA at

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