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Successful Education Collaborative Available For First Time At Garden Grove And Westminster Intermediate Schools

Successful Education Collaborative Available for First Time at Garden Grove and Westminster Intermediate Schools

$200,000 grant from Edison International provides expansion of United Way-led STEM program that includes Forensic and Water Quality Science, 3D Printing and Computer Programming – among innovative and fun hands-on curriculum elements getting students excited about learning, staying in school

IRVINE, CA – As the new school year kicks into high gear, seventh and eighth grade students in the Garden Grove Unified and Westminster school districts will gain access to enhanced science and technology curricula for the first time, thanks to a generous $200,000 grant from Edison International.

These students will now have access to experiential, hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning opportunities that supplement and complement their regular academic coursework.

The program is part of Orange County United Way’s Destination Graduation program aimed at reducing the local high school dropout rate and bridging the education achievement gap. First established in 2011, Destination Graduation is offered to middle and high school students in 20 high-need schools. This STEM program is one of many in the collaborative preparing students for the rigors of high school and college.

“We greatly appreciate Edison International’s generous contribution to this successful science and math program, allowing us to expand into Garden Grove and Westminster,” announced Max Gardner, President and CEO of Orange County United Way. “We look forward to building on the solid results we’re already seeing in Santa Ana and Anaheim.”

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 17 percent, while other occupations are growing at less than 10 percent. “Science, technology, engineering and mathematics workers play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of the U.S. economy, and are a critical component to helping the U.S. win the future,” notes Sergio Contreras, Director of Education and Work-based Learning at Orange County United Way.

“Many underserved students don’t pursue career aspirations in STEM fields because their interests aren’t nurtured,” said Janet Clayton, Edison International and Southern California Edison’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications. “At Edison, we recognize that there is real need for more diversity among STEM professionals and our future workforce, so we focus our educational funding on programs that help underserved students excel in the STEM fields.” 

Fun Way to Learn, Prepare for High School and College

The STEM curriculum, developed to inspire and encourage students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math – fields expected to grow exponentially and play increasing important roles in the high-tech future – is offered in partnership with Discovery Cube Orange County and Vital Link at nine of the 20 schools where Destination Graduation operates. Examples of STEM curriculum being offered:

  • Forensic Science: Three one-hour sessions provided by Discovery Cube incorporating science-thinking skills and methods employed by crime scene investigators such as dusting for fingerprints, determining a suspect’s identity using face parts and using technology to investigate counterfeiting designs and devices.
  • Chemistry of Water and Water Pollution: Three one-hour sessions provided by Discovery Cube allowing students to explore water quality utilizing chemistry test kits. Along the way, they’ll discover both the beneficial and harmful human impacts on our drinking water sources and other aquatic environments.
  • STEM Information Technology: Vital Link Career Exploration exhibits offer students a hands-on experience to explore different types of STEM technology and information ranging from medical, computer programming, engineering and advanced technology, product design using 3-D printers, environmental science and digital media arts. Students also learn about career opportunities associated with each exhibit and where they can go to college to gain the skills needed to enter their industry of interest.

“The hands-on activities have certainly helped engage our students in very meaningful and impactful ways,” said Ellen Febonio, a seventh and eighth grade teacher at Fitz Intermediate School. “They’re demonstrating an amazing level of curiosity in subjects and careers they’ve never previously considered. These exhibits bring the subjects to life!”

Destination Graduation Key to United Way’s Countywide Effort to Reduce High School Dropout Rate

Orange County United Way’s Destination Graduation program is geared toward creating a “college going culture” by preparing students for high school and college as early as possible. It’s a core component of the organization’s 10-year FACE 2024 community-wide action plan to cut Orange County’s high school dropout rate in half.

By identifying students’ individual talents and passions, and incorporating hands-on, meaningful coursework, more students will enjoy learning, stay in school, graduate on time and go on to college or a productive career.

To learn more about Orange County United Way, its FACE 2024 community-wide action plan, Destination Graduation and other education initiatives and partnerships, please visit the United Way website.



Katherine Ransom, Vice President, Marketing and Communications
Orange County United Way 949.263.6176, katheriner@unitedwayoc.org

Michael Suydam
21Strat 949.981.5008, mike@21strat.com


Since 1924, Orange County United Way has been working to improve lives and strengthen our community by mobilizing the caring power of Orange County. To do this, we focus on the building blocks for a good quality of life: Education, Income, Health and Housing. By investing in Orange County’s children, families and individuals, we help them meet their most basic human needs, including food, shelter and medical care, while at the same time creating pathways to self-sufficient futures through education and training. In short, we help people help themselves. Through our 10-year initiative “FACE 2024” (an acronym for Fund, Advocate, Collaborate, Educate), United Way is mobilizing local businesses, community organizations, governmental agencies and individuals to make a long-term measurable difference in the lives of Orange County youth and families. Orange County United Way holds a 4-star rating from America’s largest and most-utilized independent charity evaluator, Charity Navigator. To learn more or to join our movement, visit www.unitedwayoc.org


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