Ocean View High honored as School of Excellence for empowering first-generation and low-income students

Ocean View High School

For its wide-ranging efforts to help first-generation and low-income students navigate the path to higher education, Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach has been named a School of Excellence by the American College Application Campaign.

A total of 27 schools across the country were recognized this year by ACAC — that’s a national initiative of ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning — for their commitment to promoting postsecondary equity and success. Ocean View High, in collaboration with our state’s FutureReady CA campaign, was the sole honoree from California. 

“This recognition celebrates the dedication and efforts of our staff who have contributed to our mission of educational equity and opportunity,” OVHS Principal Dr. Robert Rasmussen said. “Education remains the great equalizer. We believe that every student, regardless of their background or circumstances, deserves access to a quality education and the opportunity to pursue their educational dreams.”

Ocean View, which is part of the Huntington Beach Union High School District, was specifically commended for its dedication to student success, timely submission of data and status as an exemplary model for FutureReady CA, a statewide college application campaign.

Setting the standard

Denise Harshman, OCDE’s coordinator of advanced learning, as well as the state coordinator of FutureReady CA, said Ocean View High has been an integral part of the success and growth of California’s program. As one of the original adopters of FutureReady CA, the campus raised money to pay application fees, worked with local partners to serve special education students and provided ongoing support to students during the pandemic. 

With minority communities accounting for 80 percent of its enrollment, Ocean View embodies the belief that every student deserves the opportunity to pursue a postsecondary education, Harshman said. She added that Ocean View now serves as a showcase site for other schools, setting the standard for success and how students are celebrated. 

“The College Application Campaign would not thrive in Orange County without the dedication, vision and execution of Ocean View High School from the very beginning,” she said, “not only taking on a new endeavor but making it an integral part of the school culture and community.”

Efforts are paying off

Acknowledging that the application process can be daunting and even confusing, ACAC annually organizes college application events at high schools, working with designated coordinators in nearly every state. 

The goal is to increase opportunities by making sure high school seniors have the chance to submit applications to postsecondary institutions of all kinds, including four-year universities and colleges, two-year colleges, and job certification programs.

The work appears to be paying off. In the 2023-24 school year, reports from 42 states indicated record-setting participation, with 9,253 high schools hosting college application campaign events, marking an increase of nearly 80 percent from the previous year. The initiative resulted in more than 467,000 seniors submitting at least one college application, contributing to a total of nearly 1.4 million applications submitted.

Demystifying the process

“These communities have shown a path forward as we work to ensure that all students, including first-generation college-goers and high school seniors from low-income backgrounds, consider college,” ACT CEO Janet Godwin said. “It begins with demystifying the complex process of applying. By meeting students where they are — in school, during the school day — the winning schools are removing many of the common obstacles students face in applying to college.”

Nearly 4.7 million students have submitted almost 8.7 million postsecondary applications since the national campaign began in 2005.

“We have seen firsthand how communities can transform the lives of students and their entire trajectories as they navigate life after high school and into college,” ACAC Director Lisa King said. “I’m so proud for ACAC to recognize more School of Excellence winners this year than ever before. It’s a thrill to celebrate the exceptional work of these educators and communities who are supporting students to take the first steps beyond high school.”

The ACAC press release includes the full list of national winners.