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Laguna Beach


OCCF, led by Laguna Beach resident, helps first-generation college students beat the odds

The Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) has 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. 

OC Promise was launched in partnership with Laguna Beach resident and OCCF donor Ranney Draper, together with two other OCCF 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. 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. 

These statistics prompted donors such as Draper – a steadfast supporter of higher education who strives to make college graduation a reality for underprivileged students – to partner with OCCF by providing an innovative type of support through OC Promise. The program is implemented in partnership with InsideTrack a national student success organization dedicated to improving college student enrollment, completion, and career readiness.

OCCF Ranney Draper

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Laguna Beach resident Ranney Draper helped fund OCCF program to help first-generation college students beat the odds

“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,” said Shelley Hoss, President and CEO, OCCF. 

“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 these challenges, OC Promise contracted with InsideTrack, which provides skills coaching to ensure that students stay on top of financial aid deadlines, develop successful study habits, learn to create short and long-term academic and professional goals, and foster a social connection with their campus communities, among other essential components of college success. Self-reliance is the end result of the program, which better positions these students to earn a four-year degree.

With the OC Promise pilot program now complete for this inaugural cohort of 50 participants, its success is evident: more than 75 percent have notified the program 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. 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.

Building on the success of the OC Promise Program and its pioneering approach, OCCF recently launched a Social Innovation Fund (SIF) to provide support to nonprofit innovators and innovations that advance social and economic well-being in Orange County. 

Three other impactful 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.

Founded in 1989, the Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) works with donors, strengthens the local nonprofit sector, and works to find solutions to community needs.

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

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