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Orange County United Way grant program receives boost

Edwards Lifesciences donates $50,000 to OCUW’s Destination Graduation program helping thousands of local teens

by Kara VaporeanPublished: November 02, 2012 12:05 PM

Orange County United Way, an Irvine-based nonprofit, has increased the scope of its Destination Graduation program, thanks to the support of its corporate partner Edwards Lifesciences. The Irvine-based medical research and technology firm has increased its grant in support of the program from $35,000 to $50,000 in efforts to help 1,600 at-risk O.C. students graduate high school on time, college- and career-ready. The grant will be awarded to 11 local schools throughout Anaheim, Huntington Beach and Santa Ana.

The DG initiative aims to reduce the 14.3 percent high school dropout rate in Orange County, which primarily impacts low-income minority students. The program will give students and teachers the opportunity for enhanced academic programs by offering interactive learning, more field trips, on-site career mobile units, parental engagement and teacher training.  

Mike Mussallem, chairman and CEO of Edwards Lifesciences, affirmed his company’s support and respect of Orange County United Way and the organization’s “deep knowledge of the needs in our local community.”

“We trust our investment in the Destination Graduation program will deliver results that not only reduce the high school dropout rate, but will also strengthen our local community,” Mussallem said.

Destination Graduation partner schools are part of the Advancement Via Individual Determination academic program, an in-school, elective class students can take that can change the trajectory of their education. AVID is designed to help those at risk of not graduating high school, but who are more than determined to improve their educational future. Most of the students in the DG program are or will be the first in their families to attend college.

Through mobile career units and on-site field trips, DG reports show 5,000 students throughout the county are exposed to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math-related careers. Industry leaders such as Edwards Lifesciences, ION Reality, Broadcom and Allergan offer off-site STEM field trips for career-ready students. The field trips alone have helped more than 2,000 students determine college and career ventures.

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