Pilot Program Focuses on First Generation College Students

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Graduates celebrate completing their schooling.
— Photo credit: Stacey Kennedy / Pixabay

The Newport Beach-based Orange County Community Foundation recently announced the culmination of a 14-month pilot program, Orange County Promise.

The initiative aims to make the dream of college completion a reality for 50 OCCF scholarship recipients who are the first in their families to attend college, officials explained in a press release shared last month. Laguna Beach resident and OCCF donor Ranney Draper, launched OC Promise in partnership with OCCF and two other donors.

In its first year, the program is designed to address the challenge of low college completion rates among disadvantaged and first-generation higher education students, according to officials.

“The odds are historically stacked against this pool across the country: In total, 89 percent of low-income first-generation students leave college within six years without a degree; further, the dropout rate of first-generation students is four times that of second-generation students,” the announcement reads.

These statistics prompted Draper to partner with OCCF by providing an innovative type of support through OC Promise. The program works with InsideTrack, a national student success organization dedicated to improving college student enrollment, completion and career readiness, officials explained in the message.

“At OCCF, our mission is to faithfully steward our donors’ intentions by addressing our community’s greatest challenges — such as barriers faced by disadvantaged college students — and designing strategies to tackle those challenges,” OCCF President and CEO Shelley Hoss said in a prepared statement. “Enabling our donors to address areas of need with innovative approaches is a means to creating sustainable community impact. In this case, OC Promise is paving the way for first-generation college students to successfully complete a degree and change the future for themselves and their families for generations to come.”

Through this initiative, Draper, with the support of OCCF, sought to provide wraparound skills coaching for the vulnerable population of first-year college students. These students were typically the first in their families to attend college, faced extenuating circumstances that caused hardship, or had little access to financial and other supportive resources.

To address the challenge these students face, typically with little access to financial or other supportive resources, OC Promise contracted with InsideTrack, to help students stay on top of financial aid deadlines, develop successful study habits, set goal, and more. Officials note that self-reliance is the end goal of the program.

Hugo Pastrana, a Santa Ana resident who is the first in his family to attend college, just completed his first year as a computer engineering major at California State University, Fullerton, officials noted in the press release. Pastrana participated in OC Promise’s pilot program and InsideTrack tailored its coaching to his needs.

“I came into college with some idea of what to expect, but it’s not the same as actually experiencing it,” Pastrana said in a prepared statement.

His coach helped him focus and utilize his time more efficiently, Pastrana added.

“I had to keep myself accountable because I told him I would. He really energizes me and the other students, and I am grateful he was a part of my journey,” he noted.

With the OC Promise pilot program now complete, more than 75 percent of the program’s inaugural group of 50 students have notified OCCF of their plans to return to their respective schools for their sophomore year.

“Further, many are making long-term plans to enrich their remaining undergraduate years by exploring opportunities to study abroad or begin career-related internships,” officials explain in the message. “The second pool of 60 students commenced its participation in OC Promise in mid-August, with the first tasks at hand to discuss short- and long-term goals and identify any challenges that have arisen.”

OCCF also recently launched a Social Innovation Fund to provide support to nonprofit innovators and innovations that advance social and economic well-being in Orange County. Concepts addressing topics ranging from homelessness to mental health will soon be unveiled, all of which “aim to develop and deploy effective solutions to challenging and often systemic issues in support of social progress.”

For more information, visit oc-cf.org  or call (949) 553-4202

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