Students at Anaheim’s Loara High School bank on unique job training opportunity (video)

Here’s a story that’s earning interest.

Union Bank has opened an actual working branch on the campus of Loara High School in Anaheim. By all accounts, this represents a highly unique partnership that’s dispensing both lessons on financial literacy as well as bankable job training for Loara students.

We could probably deposit a few more bank puns into this post, but we think you should just check out the video, courtesy of our top-notch Media Services team.

Is there something cool happening at your school that you’d like to see featured on the OCDE Newsroom? Drop us an email at

Youth from OCDE’s Friday Night Live program host town hall meeting on underage drinking

Student leaders from the Santiago de Compostela Church Youth Ministry’s Friday Night Live chapter are getting ready to host a special town hall meeting on Saturday, Feb. 6 to discuss the dangers of underage drinking, as well as potential preventative measures.

OC FNLWorking in collaboration with the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the state Office of Traffic Safety and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the FNL members have taken the lead on planning and preparing for the meeting, which will feature prevention professionals and youth panelists speaking to an audience of parents and students.

The event is set to take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Santiago de Compostela Catholic Church, located at 21682 Lake Forest Drive in Lake Forest.

Friday Night Live is a high school youth development program that’s part of OCDE’s Orange County Friday Night Live Partnership. Students who participate focus on alcohol and drug prevention with the goal of promoting lasting change in their schools and communities.

Underage drinking remains a pressing public health concern that continues to take a toll on young people, as well as their families and communities. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, alcohol annually is responsible for the deaths of more than 4,300 underage youth.

Saturday’s town hall meeting aligns with a national SAMHSA-supported initiative called “Communities Talk: Town Hall Meetings to Prevent Underage Drinking.” For more information, visit or contact OCDE Program Specialist Elke Petras at

Orange County Friday Night Live secures grant to combat underage drinking

For the second straight year, the Orange County Department of Education has been awarded a sizeable grant to support the efforts of youth leaders in the Friday Night Live program as they implement campaigns designed to combat underage drinking in their communities.

OC FNLThe latest $15,000 grant is provided through the California Friday Night Live Partnership with funding from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It gives local youth additional opportunities to lead projects that will actively engage their peers, family members and community members with the goal of reducing underage drinking – and preventing the problems that are often the result.

The FNL chapters selected to participate include those from Bolsa Grande and Santiago high schools in the Garden Grove Unified School District; Magnolia High School in the Anaheim Union High School District; and the Santiago de Compostela Youth Ministry in Lake Forest.

Youth leaders will once again tackle multifaceted prevention efforts that will include outreach to parents, alcohol retailers and students enrolled at local middle and high schools. For example, students last year staged a “reality party” to spotlight the dangers of underage drinking.

Friday Night Live is a high school youth development program that empowers students to change their schools and communities by focusing on alcohol and drug prevention. Along the way, students develop meaningful skills in the areas of communication, collaboration and problem-solving.

You can learn more about FNL here.

High School Inc. program leverages local businesses to promote college and career readiness

Rudy Villalobos was just a couple weeks into an internship at an Audi service department when he offered a suggestion to some veteran technicians performing an alignment.

What if, he asked, the team clicked on an alternate computer screen that displayed more information, including a detailed list of the tools needed?

The techs didn’t know such a screen existed.

“They were shocked,” says Rudy, 19. “They wanted to know where I learned that.”

It turns out he learned that and a lot more at High School Inc., a program that operates on the campus of Valley School High in Santa Ana.

High School Inc. was established through a partnership between the Santa Ana Unified School District, the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce and the High School Inc. Foundation, and it recently raised a few eyebrows when it announced that students who entered the program as sophomores had posted a near-perfect graduation rate of 98.5 percent in 2014. (To add context, Orange County’s overall graduation rate was 88.6 percent last year, and the rate for California was about 81 percent.)

But graduation numbers only tell part of the story. What’s perhaps most unique is this school-within-a-school’s approach to blending college and career readiness.

NewMediaTeam2At High School Inc., students enroll in one of six specialized academies that integrate career technical education with traditional classroom subjects such as English, math, social studies and science.

The academies were strategically designed to meet 21st-century workforce needs. They include Culinary Arts and Hospitality, Healthcare, Automotive Logistics and Transportation, New Media, Global Business and Engineering, and Manufacturing and Construction.

Rudy graduated from the automotive academy, taking with him four college credits. Now he’s enrolled at Santa Ana College — and employed at the Audi dealership.

“Ever since I was small, I always liked working on cars,” he says. “Having the courses in school made me like it even more. I was hands-on every day.”

Donnie Crevier, the CEO of High School Inc., is also a car guy. Until 2011, he ran Crevier BMW, the family business. He says the concept of High School Inc. was brainstormed almost a decade ago by Chamber of Commerce leaders who were looking for strategies to strengthen the local workforce. They reached out to Mr. Crevier, who had some thoughts.

“We had a huge need for automotive technicians,” he says, “and we still do.”

But what began as a strategy for bolstering vocational training evolved into a hybrid of college and career readiness, leveraging local businesses to help prepare students for the modern workplace.

“We found that for kids who get into these career tech programs, all of a sudden the critical thinking aspect of their education comes alive,” Crevier says. “They start thinking about education long-term and broad-term. It opens their eyes to working toward a goal.”

“Some of them will go on to college and pursue other things,” he says, “and some will stay on their chosen career paths.”

High School Inc. officially launched at Valley in 2007, and the program has continued to grow. Last year, about half of Valley’s 2,200 students participated in one of the six academies, which were open to sophomores, juniors and seniors. This year, freshmen can also enroll.  

“High School Inc. academies provide Valley students with small learning communities where students connect in a cohort of like-minded students and a smaller number of teachers that provide the core and (career tech) curriculum,” says Valley Principal David Richey.

“It’s my belief that students who commit to a High School Inc. academy are very well positioned when they graduate high school to have multiple opportunities, and they are certainly college and career ready,” Richey says. “I’m not sure you can find that type of preparation in most high schools.”

Mark McLoughlin, president of the High School Inc. Foundation board, says teachers from each of the academies work closely with business advisors to help students pursue their interests, discover their talents and develop post-graduation plans.

Students get to hear from guest speakers and take field trips to colleges, universities and businesses. Training luncheons, networking, competitions and awards ceremonies also help bring the curriculum to life.

Toms Truck Field Trip2Academies can reach capacity, so enrollees are asked to select their first, second and third choices during registration. Meanwhile, there are also opportunities for interaction among the academies, McLoughlin says.

For example, automotive students might team up with their engineering counterparts on a project that asks them to design a fuel-efficient car capable of racing long distances. Culinary students might be asked to prepare meals for classmates on a field trip.

“We believe we have hit the momentum that we wanted to be on with this project,” McLoughlin says. “Now we’re trying to fine tune some of our processes and procedures and scale this up.”

Indeed, the partners behind High School Inc. would like to see the model take root at other schools and perhaps other districts. And it’s worth noting that its objectives align nicely with a new county initiative called OC Pathways.

Led by the Orange County Department of Education and Saddleback College, OC Pathways was created last year to expand career pathways for students across all academic levels. The project is backed by a $15 million grant from the California Department of Education and now boasts the involvement of more than a dozen school districts, nine community colleges, two major universities, four regional occupational programs, three workforce investment boards, numerous community partners and 100-plus businesses.

Speaking of businesses, Mark Bartholio is the coordinator of High School Inc.’s Global Business Academy, which holds a special state designation as a California Partnership Academy.

Bartholio says each year area business leaders guide his students through the process of setting up fictitious companies, and some invite the aspiring entrepreneurs to tour their corporate headquarters.

These kinds of real-world experiences build soft skills and give high schoolers a chance to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom, he says. They also connect the students with a world they’ll interact with soon enough.

“They look forward to the day when the business partners are going to come,” Bartholio says. “They dress for success, and they’re eager to report on the progress they’ve made for their projects.”

Santa Ana high schoolers complete internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (video)

Perhaps you’ve been following the story of eight high school students from Santa Ana who earned the rare opportunity to be paid interns at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Well, Friday marked the last day of their eight-week odyssey, which was made possible by OCDE’s OC Pathways project, OpTerra Energy Services, the Santa Ana Unified School District and, of course, JPL.

A day before the students said their final goodbyes, we dispatched a film crew to Pasadena to learn more about their experiences. Hear what they had to say by clicking on the brief video above.

As we mentioned in a previous post, this wasn’t merely a job-shadowing program. The soon-to-be-seniors were paired with JPL science and engineering mentors and tasked with advancing real projects through highly technical contributions. Suffice to say, it was the kind of opportunity that’s typically not made available to high school students.

“The students have been, I think, impressed with the amount of responsibility and the expectations that we’ve had of them,” said David Seidel, JPL’s deputy education director, “but they’ve all stepped up and they have met those expectations.”

Students participating in summer JPL internship program featured on EdSource

In June, we told you about eight very sharp students from high schools in the Santa Ana Unified School District who were selected to be summer interns at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

It was an opportunity made possible through OCDE’s emerging OC Pathways project, along with generous community partners like OpTerra Energy Services, which contributed stipends for each intern.

Well, that story has drawn interest from EdSource, a respected site for education news that’s dedicated to promoting student success stories across the state.

Check out reporter Fermin Leal’s coverage here.

Three student projects from OC earn medals at National History Day Contest in Maryland

Frances & Michelle Kroll

We’ve got results today from the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest, which was held this week at the University of Maryland in College Park.

We’ll jump right to the good part: Of the seven California entries to earn medals, three were from schools in Orange County.

In the Junior Group Documentary category — “junior” in this case denotes the middle school division — first place honors went to Frances Kroll and Michelle Kroll of Sierra Vista Middle School in the Irvine Unified School District. (They’re pictured above.) Their documentary is titled “Henry Ford: Driving America Into the Future,” and their teacher was Jonathan Millers.

Sophia Burick, Kelly McDonald, Kate McKernanIn the Junior Group Website category, Sophia Burick, Kelly McDonald and Kate McKernan from Shorecliffs Middle School in the Capistrano Unified School District (and pictured to the right) took third place under the direction of teacher Fred Morris. Their site is called “Norman Borlaug: A Legacy of a Billion Lives.”

Finally, in the Junior Individual Exhibit category, Morgan Kopecky of Irvine Unified’s Lakeside Middle School placed third with her submission, “Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Jon Pang was Morgan’s teacher.

Morgan KopeckyFor a complete rundown of this year’s winners, click here. 

More than 500,000 elementary, middle and high school students from the U.S. and beyond take part in National History Day competitions at the local, state and national levels each year, conducting extensive research based on a yearly theme before submitting complex projects in the form of papers, exhibits, performances, websites and documentaries. School competitions are held in the winter, followed by county and state contests.

In May, California’s National History Day event was held at William Jessup University in Rocklin, drawing more than 1,161 students from 25 counties — including 87 young historians from Orange County.

Fifteen of those students ultimately got the chance to bring their projects to the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest, which was held June 14 through June 18. This year’s theme was “Leadership and Legacy in History.”