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United Way Blog

United Way Boosts Youth Opportunity in Orange County

In Orange County, California, the high-school dropout rate presents a critical challenge that affects socioeconomically disadvantaged students the most. The 29th Annual Report on the Conditions of Children in Orange County (2023) says over 1,500 students still need to complete high school. This educational gap undermines the potential of young individuals, limiting their opportunities and contributing to broader social and economic disparities.

Orange County United Way launched the United for Student Success℠ (U4SS) initiative in response to the children's challenges. U4SS takes an equity-focused approach, incorporating work-based learning and college and career readiness programs. The initiative's goal is ambitious yet transparent: increase the countywide graduation rate from 85% to 95%. Remarkably, the graduation rate has approached 90% in just five years since its inception.

One of the U4SS standout programs is the Youth Career Connections (YCC) Start-Up Bootcamp for Student Entrepreneurs. This program identifies high school students who face socioeconomic barriers and equips them with critical entrepreneurial skills. With the support of partners like Banc of California, the Bootcamp curriculum offers practical skills like financial literacy, risk management, and effective marketing strategies. Since its launch in Fall 2021, the Bootcamp has served over 130 students, actively contributing to reducing the dropout rate and fostering long-term success. Frida is a recent Bootcamp graduate and the founder of Kahlos Coffee. She says, "This program not only enhanced my personal growth but also strengthened my business, providing me with a heightened awareness of professionalism and the essential elements for success." 

The success of the Youth Career Connections reaffirms Orange County United Way's commitment to addressing systemic educational challenges. By providing tailored educational programs and resources, United Way ensures that all students have the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their background. Through initiatives like U4SS, United Way demonstrates its core mission: to mobilize communities toward resilience and equitable growth. As we continue to expand and adapt these programs, we invite you to connect with your local United Way to learn how you can mobilize your community so that everyone has an opportunity to thrive.