Orange County Department of Education releases strategic vision for student thriving

Empowering Students to Thrive

In collaboration with families, educators and community partners, the Orange County Department of Education has introduced a strategic vision that describes how local communities can work together to ensure children are thriving in all aspects of their lives.

“Empowering Students to Thrive in Education, Career and Life” is a comprehensive 50-page report that outlines shared objectives for the health, well-being and success of students. It also provides examples of effective partnerships and supports that are currently contributing to student thriving, which is defined as flourishing physically, socially, emotionally and academically.

The report concludes with a set of strategic priorities and indicators that can be used to measure progress.

“This strategic vision is focused on empowering Orange County students to thrive by building on their strengths and assets and working together to create the conditions necessary for them to overcome obstacles, to reach their full potential and to lead healthy, fulfilling lives,” Orange County Superintendent Dr. Al Mijares said.

Building on OC’s strengths

Based on interviews with community partners, families, students and educators — and endorsed by more than two dozen Orange County school district superintendents — the “Empowering Students to Thrive” report was commissioned in response to surveys and studies indicating elevated rates of depression, anxiety and stress-related health symptoms among youth.

While these are national trends, the report notes that Orange County has a number of advantages that can be leveraged on behalf of students, including strong parental and community involvement, an abundance of social activities, and robust systems of support within local schools. 

“In crafting this report, we sought to take an assets-based approach that builds on the strengths of our students, schools and communities,” said Dr. Jeff Hittenberger, the report’s primary author and dean of the School of Education at Vanguard University. “We really wanted to start by focusing on the capabilities of students, their families and their support systems rather than looking exclusively at the challenges. By working together, we can create caring communities where every student can thrive.”

Spotlighting strategies

In response to emerging challenges, the report sheds light on a variety of successful strategies, student-led initiatives and partnerships that have the potential to be expanded, along with effective practices that can be replicated. The report also highlights examples of students who are flourishing and making a positive impact in their communities. At the same time, it underscores the importance of enhancing collaboration and communication between schools, districts, families, public agencies, elected officials, faith communities, service providers and other groups that serve children and families.

The document further calls for a concerted effort to increase the number of candidates entering fields related to student thriving, and it advocates for sustained support and resources for teachers and other school-based professionals who are already on the frontlines. 

While the challenges facing youth are national in scope, Dr. Mijares said Orange County is well positioned to find solutions — and to provide a roadmap for other counties to follow.

“This report is not intended to sit idle on a shelf, nor is it the final say on the matter,” he said. “On the contrary, I hope this research will spark ongoing conversations in homes and schools about how we can work together to create environments where every student is able to thrive.”

To access a digital copy of the report, visit the Orange County Department of Education website. To order printed copies, visit

Additional resources

If you know a child or teen experiencing depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, there are a number of free resources that can help. Here are a few:

  • OC Navigator. Created by the OC Health Care Agency, this site connects Orange County residents with health and wellness resources and other services, such as housing, transportation and legal support. Visit
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 1-800-273-8255 is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline that’s available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. It provides Spanish-speaking counselors, as well as options for deaf and hard of hearing individuals.
  • The Crisis Text Line. The Crisis Text Line is the only 24/7, nationwide crisis-intervention text message hotline. Text HOME to 741-741.
  • OC WarmLine. Available 24/7, the OC WarmLine is a free and confidential telephone service providing emotional support and resources to Orange County residents. Call 714-991-6412 or visit for more information.
  • National Parent Helpline. This hotline provides emotional support and empowerment strategies to strengthen families. Call 1-855-4A PARENT(1-855-427-2736) 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.
  • 2-1-1 OC. This service connects Orange County’s most vulnerable residents with vital health and human service resources. Call 888-600-4357 or visit