Weekly roundup: United Way gives laptops to college-bound seniors, Saddleback College gets a new mascot, and more

Orange County United Way recently distributed hundreds of laptops and technology kits, giving a boost to economically disadvantaged students who are making plans for college.

In December, Orange County United Way launched its Class of 2021 program to help 300 Orange County high school seniors in communities hit hardest by the pandemic, including Anaheim, Santa Ana and Garden Grove.

Student in car holding sign that reads, "A pandemic can't stop me"The initiative included an E-Mentorship program, a robust virtual workshop series to teach essential skills for success beyond high school, and a new laptop and technology kit to help bridge the digital divide.

One local high school senior, Alexies, had started the college application process but became overwhelmed when COVID-19 hit. Through the Class of 2021 program, she received individual mentoring and assistance with her college applications.

According to Orange County United Way, Alexies has since been accepted to Cornell University, where she’ll become the first in her family to attend college.

The Garden Grove Unified School District recently shared a few photos on its Instagram account of college-bound students taking possession of their new laptops and technology kits. We’re told 130 students participated from that district alone.

And here are some of the news stories we’ve been tracking this week:

  • A three-day conference presented by OCDE, the Butte County Office of Education and the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools will bring together thousands of educators to share best practices that support the academic, behavioral and social-emotional success of all students.
  • As a guest writer for Voice of OC, Jim Kollias, who teaches orchestra at Beckman High School, explains how his students found purpose, inspiration and joy playing music during the pandemic.
  • Following months of research and county-level victories, eight history projects from Orange County were named champions in their respective categories at this year’s National History Day California competition — and now they’re headed to the NHD National Contest based in Maryland.
  • Newport Mesa Unified Superintendent Russell Lee-Sung, who took the helm of that district in the middle of the pandemic, overseeing distance learning plans and the return of on-site instruction, has announced he will retire on Aug. 3 after 36 years in education.
  • More than 150 students from across Orange County have virtually exhibited over 60 STEM-based designs demonstrating creativity and ingenuity at this year’s ocMaker Challenge. Organized by OCDE’s Career Education unit, the annual event draws hundreds of elementary, middle and high school students each year who are eager to show off their inventions.
  • OCDE’s Orange County Friday Night Live Partnership honored two local schools and an advisor for their efforts to promote youth development and implement alcohol and drug prevention projects in their schools and communities.
  • In recognition of national Trauma Awareness Month, the California Department of Public Health and the California Office of the Surgeon General have produced a new social media campaign titled #IamTraumaAware.
  • Academic Decathlon powerhouse El Camino Real Charter High School in Woodland Hills won its fifth national championship after racking up 41,845.7 points out of a possible 48,000.
  • The Community Action Partnership is collecting funds and school supplies to distribute to low-income students in Orange County as part of its Backpacks for Success program. The nonprofit’s goal has traditionally been to serve about 1,500 to 2,000 students, but this year that number has been raised to 5,000 based on increased needs.
  • And finally, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced his revised spending plan for the next fiscal year based on updated revenue numbers, which were surprisingly high. EdSource offers highlights of the proposed budget with a focus on schools and students.

This is the part where we encourage you to keep up with local education news stories by bookmarking the OCDE Newsroomsubscribing for emailed updates and following us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.