It’s time to put away the helmets at the Samueli Academy.
The Santa Ana-based public charter school recently completed construction of its campus after a decade of fundraising, with the opening of a gymnasium and soccer field on the 7.1-acre campus.
Samueli Academy is a program of the non-profit Orangewood Foundation, which also announced that the school’s 10-year multi-phase fundraising campaign is now complete. A total of $72 million was raised for the upgrades.
It’s a landmark moment for the school, which has an Orange County Department of Education charter and expanded to grades 7-12 this year. Samueli Academy is now at full capacity with 775 students.
Many of the young people that Samueli Academy serves are in host families, although it also welcomes students from the local community.
Corona del Mar philanthropists Susan Samueli and Sandi Jackson pioneered the idea of Samueli Academy some 20 years ago, but it took years to secure the site. Samueli, owner of the Anaheim Ducks hockey team with her husband Henry, co-founder of Broadcom Corp., said the school exceeded her expectations.
“Sandi and I do this constantly, we pinch each time we walk around campus,” Susan Samueli said. “We did that? We did it with a lot of help. When you want to do something, you have to be patient.
The majority of Samueli students — 58% — are considered economically disadvantaged, according to US News and World Report. But the school ranks well in that organization’s annual rankings, consistently ranking in the top 6 percent statewide and nationwide, and 96 percent of its students go on to attend a two- or four-year college.
Anthony Saba, the executive director of Samueli Academy, has been at the school since before it opened in 2013. He said the school’s four-year alumni support program after a student graduates creates a 10-year commitment for every seventh-grader who comes to campus.
“We are really, really a school that is dedicated to the long-term academic and professional success of our children, in everything we do,” said Saba, who lives on the Balboa Peninsula.
The school’s project-based learning adapted to the coronavirus pandemic, he said, once students returned to campus.
“Online learning is not the same,” Saba said. “This year, on Mondays, they take several very interesting courses, then from Tuesday to Friday, they do their English, their mathematics and their engineering. We immediately saw that they had to be rehired after two years. [of remote learning]especially the kids who had never even been to our campus.
Samueli Academy is a cause dear to the heart of Rob Bartholomew. Bartholomew, a Newport Beach resident who is the chairman of a private equity firm, said he donated two classrooms and a dining patio to the school.
Bartholomew himself had humble beginnings, growing up in Hoboken, NJ. He was the first member of his family to go to college.
“One of the reasons I have personally found the academy and Orangewood close to my heart is that I believe in education as a way out of poverty, based on my own experience,” Bartholomew said. . “The academy truly offers an immersive and tactile educational environment.”
Samueli Academy has launched on-campus housing for homestay youth, through the Orangewood Foundation’s Youth Connected program. Saba said five children are currently in the dorms, which have a capacity of 48 students.
Susan Samueli will appreciate continuing to see her passion project grow.
“It wasn’t just about finding the land,” she said. “It was about finding the best schools. We have been all over the United States. We wanted to make sure that we created a school that would be successful, that would be loved, and the kind of school that this type of population really needed… It became a family for these children.
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