Destination Graduation | Orange County United Way

Destination Graduation

Destination Graduation

Committed to High School Academic Success

For teens, the formative years of growing bring stress and pressures from lots of angles and it can be challenging to make good decisions for the future. If those decisions have a negative impact—like dropping out of high school—it affects their chances for a productive and fulfilling life. For students who have never seen anyone in their family graduate high school, dropping out can perpetuate a downward spiral of missed opportunities.

Yet by putting at-risk students in classrooms with teachers trained in innovative, interactive teaching techniques with enhanced resources, students end up inspiring each other to finish high school on-time—and are better prepared for college, career and a meaningful life.

Destination Graduation, powered by Orange County United Way, is one of our Education initiatives, aimed at reducing the local high school dropout rate and bridging the academic achievement gap. Offered for middle and high school students in high need districts, Destination Graduation provides a path to enhancing student success.

The Orange County Education Gap: What OC is Facing

  • Nearly 3,000 local students drop out of high school every year
  • High school dropouts are four times more likely to be unemployed compared to college graduates
  • Dropouts are more likely to apply for and receive public assistance than graduates
  • On average, high school graduates earn more per week than dropouts
  • 61% of jobs in California will require post-secondary education by 2018*

This education achievement gap is fueled by family and community poverty, language and cultural barriers, lack of advocacy, and limited educational opportunities outside of a stressed school system.

Our Response to OC’s High School Dropout Rate

Designed to engage, empower and inspire local at-risk youth through strategic educational partnerships, Destination Graduation reflects United Way’s commitment to the next generation of productive Orange County citizens. Destination Graduation provides access to support services and resources to move low-income students along the path to graduate on time, college or career-ready:

Improving Teacher and Parental Effectiveness

  • Teachers in the program attend intensive summer education programs to learn innovative academic frameworks, creating a classroom culture of rigor and scholastic success. To date, United Way has supported the training of 150 local teachers and expanded teaching methods to 180 additional school personnel.
  • To reach and engage parents as active partners in their child’s academic success, United Way works with specific Destination Graduation schools and districts where parents may be unfamiliar with the U.S. education standards (or college eligibility requirements). To date, United Way has provided OC parents with 12,000 copies of the Latino Educational Attainment program’s “Ten Commandments for Education” and “Forty Developmental Assets”.

Student Engagement and Career Exploration

  • Orange County United Way is providing all Destination Graduation students exciting career exploration opportunities, both on and off-campus, via:
    • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) experimental hands-on learning modules
    • Mobile STEM career exhibits
    • Off-site STEM and college field trips
    • Corporate Career Share Days
    • College and Career Fairs

Download the Destination Graduation Executive Summary for a complete list of resources and services.

Destination Graduation - Going Places

Destination Graduation currently partners with the administrators, teachers, students, and parents at 11 high schools and 9 middle schools, preparing OC students with the skills they need to be successful employees and citizens to compete in global economy. Improving the graduation rate is a cornerstone of our FACE 2024 goal: to cut the high school dropout rate in half by 2024.

Watch Rodolfo’s story, a Destination Graduation student who believes every kid has the potential to do something great with their life.


Last year 4,472 students enrolled in Destination Graduation. With your support, we can help more local students graduate on time, college and career-ready.

Join us in making a difference. Get email updates!

Subscribe to our mailing list

Create brighter futures. Make a financial contribution today.


* 2012 Orange County Community Indicators Report