In 2015, the Dickens Project partnered with the Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) in Los Angeles to bring students and teachers for a week of intensive study at the Dickens Universe. NAI is a rigorous, seven-year pre-college enrichment program designed to prepare low-income and first-generation students for admission to a college or university. English classes at NAI agree to read the novel selected for the next Dickens Universe conference, and the Friends of the Dickens Project purchase the books. In many cases, these books are the first novels these students have ever owned. In the spring, four students are selected, based on submitted essays, to attend the conference at UC Santa Cruz, along with two of their teachers. Each person receives a travel stipend, as well as free room and board for the week. The Dickens Universe, now in its 36th year, not only attracts major faculty and graduate students from schools in its international consortium, but also hosts a Road Scholar program and a UC Santa Cruz Summer Session course for credit. Over 250 people make up the diverse audience for a week of lectures, seminars, films, and other activities. One of the past scholarship winners said, “We were able to make connections that will last beyond the Dickens Universe and hopefully for the rest of our education.” Our goal of $7,000 covers the expenses of the six NAI participants for this summer, as well as books for next year. Four generous donors have provided a 1:1 match up to $3,500 for gifts made on Giving Day. You can learn more about our partnership here.