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Orange County United Way Celebrates SparkPoint OC Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony at Washington Elementary

Orange County United Way Celebrates SparkPoint OC Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony At Washington Elementary

By the “numbers,” Orange County is prospering. But the facts of poverty and financial instability paint a very different picture.

Many families are walking a financial tightrope, and young children are not sparred from this hardship.

Research has shown there is a direct link between financial hardship and academic performance and prospects of children living in poverty.

To get in front of this critical issue and help build a bright future for Orange County’s young learners and their families, Orange County United Way is igniting the spark of help and hope on school campuses in areas with the greatest need with its SparkPoint OC Financial Empowerment Centers.

Last month, Orange County United Way, in partnership with Edwards Lifesciences, celebrated the start of its newest SparkPoint OC on-campus location at Washington Elementary School in Santa Ana. For the first time, the school’s families can access free support and personal financial coaching to get back on track and stabilize their finances and housing situation.

Washington Elementary is located in a neighborhood where there is a high level of poverty within families. More than 55% of Washington students are housing insecure, often living doubled or triple-d up in motels, and more than 80% of students are on a free or reduced-priced lunch program.

Housing-insecure or homeless students are more likely to experience greater school mobility than their non-homeless peers. School mobility can cause interruptions to a child’s education and is associated with lower school achievement and increased risk of dropping out of school.

By implementing on-campus financial empowerment centers, United Way is able to assist families in creating sustainable household finances and a stabilized environment for their children. As a result, these students become more secure and better able to focus on their academic success.

SparkPoint OC

Susan B. Parks, President & CEO of Orange County United Way, celebrates with Jackie Ochoa, principal at Washington Elementary.

“We’re working aggressively to find better tools and strategies to reduce poverty here in Orange County and in the communities with the greatest need,” said Susan B. Parks, President & CEO of Orange County United Way. “With the opening of this new SparkPoint OC Financial Empowerment Center in Santa Ana, United Way is helping working low-income Orange County residents maximize their earnings and plan for a better financial future. It’s a pivotal step in creating a thriving community.”

The new SparkPoint location was made possible with the help of United Way’s longtime supporter Edward Lifesciences and their commitment to transforming the lives of Orange County’s young learners. The Edwards Lifesciences Foundation provided the seed funding needed to launch the SparkPoint OC program on campus at Washington Elementary.

“Financial stability helps families break the cycle of poverty and ensures better education and health for children,” said Christine Fontana, Senior Manager, Global Corporate Giving Edwards Lifesciences. “We see our communities as our partners and we’re proud to support the work of Orange County United Way in identifying the best solutions and utilizing the best tools to help families gain financial independence.”

SparkPoint OC

Christine Fontana, Senior Manager, Global Corporate Giving Edwards Lifesciences, speaks during the SparkPoint OC ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The opening of the financial empowerment center is the first major milestone in United Way’s work to build an “Impact Hub” in Santa Ana, a comprehensive resource center for local families with a portfolio of programming, investment and engagement that meets the school’s and community’s goals.

A special ribbon-cutting ceremony on October 23 commemorated the new SparkPoint OC Financial Empowerment Center at Washington Elementary, and celebrated its potential to make a great impact on the surrounding community.

The event welcomed notable guests such as Valerie Amezcua, President of the Santa Ana Unified School District School Board, John Palacio, Santa Ana Unified School district Board Member, Christine Fontana, Senior Manager, Global Corporate Giving Edwards Lifesciences, Dave Elliot, Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Sue Parks, Orange County United Way President and CEO, and Jackie Ochoa, Washington Elementary School Principal.


Orange County United Way is helping families on the path to becoming financially independent by focusing on the most important tools to build financial stability—good paying jobs through training; financial literacy and education; and free tax preparation services—to get hardworking people the returns they deserve. SparkPoint OC is just one of the programs Orange County United Way has launched to support its FACE 2024 goal of reducing the percentage of financially unstable families by 25% by 2024. Are you ready to do more to help break the cycle of poverty in Orange County? 

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Orange County United Way is Solving Problems in the Community

United Way fights for the education, health, housing and financial stability of every person in Orange County. We are doing more than raising funds, we are transforming our community. If you are looking for ways to help, learn how to get involved or sign up for our monthly newsletter.

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