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In The News

In the News

08/25/2017 - Elizabeth’s Story

In what feels like the blink of an eye, summer is coming to an end, and kids and teens are headed back to school. For some students, the month of August can be bittersweet. But for Orangewood youth Elizabeth, it has been nothing but exciting!

Last week Elizabeth began her first semester at UC Berkeley. We had the chance to sit down with Elizabeth a few weeks ago before she left for her orientation. Like any incoming college freshman, she was mostly excited (about her classes and exploring San Francisco) and a little bit nervous (about moving into her university apartment with her roommate whom she had not yet met). She is planning on majoring in English, hoping to get a chance to study abroad in Scotland, and dreaming of going to law school after she receives her undergraduate degree.

For Elizabeth, school has always been more than just an institution of learning. When Elizabeth was a child, she suffered abuse at the hands of her parents. From kindergarten on, school was an escape from what was happening to her at home. “I always particularly liked reading,” she explained, “because it let my mind totally go to a different place.” When she was in middle school, Elizabeth became comfortable enough with a school counselor to reveal the abuse that she and her siblings were enduring at home. Once the abuse had been reported, Elizabeth and two of her siblings who were still minors were removed from their parents’ care, and placed into foster care.

At first, the siblings were placed in a foster home together. Although the foster home was stable and the foster parents were kind, Elizabeth never quite settled into the placement. “I just never quite felt comfortable living in someone else’s home,” she explains. She bounced around foster homes for a year or two, and was eventually placed in a group home. Throughout these rocky years, school remained an escape for Elizabeth. She took honors courses and joined the swim team, filling her time and thoughts with school. And she never lost the ability to lose herself in a book.

While she was in high school, because of the trauma in her past, Elizabeth’s social worker connected her with a Mental Health Case Worker at Orangewood Foundation. Orangewood staff helped Elizabeth develop coping skills and manage her stress. When she graduated from high school, Orangewood staff helped her find employment at a local YMCA as a lifeguard, and encouraged her to keep swimming (as she had done in high school) to help manage her stress. For a few years after she graduated high school, Elizabeth worked two part-time jobs, and took classes at a local community college with the help of Orangewood scholarships. When she decided she wanted to enroll in a four-year university to turn her love of books into an English degree, Orangewood staff was there to help. Although she didn’t think she would get in, she applied to Berkeley because, as she explained, “If you’re going to go to college, you might as well try to go to the best one you can!”

“Orangewood has helped me every step of the way,” Elizabeth says, “from helping me learn coping skills, to helping me navigate the college application process. Orangewood staff members have guided me and served as role models, and the financial assistance has been such a huge help. I’m so appreciative of the help and very excited to be pursuing my dreams at Berkeley.” We are excited for you, too, Elizabeth, and can’t wait to see what your future holds!

08/02/2017 - 4th Annual Lois Eisenberg Memorial Golf Outing

Thursday, April 7, 2022
Ben Brown’s Golf Course at The Ranch in Laguna Beach

When: April 7, 2022

Where: Ben Brown’s Golf Course, 31106 Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA

Join the 44 Women for Orangewood at a fun and exciting golf outing in honor of Lois Eisenberg.

 

07/31/2017 - Diana’s Story

Diana is a bright and bubbly 18-year-old who just graduated from high school, just got her first part-time job, and is starting her first semester of college in the fall. If you ask her what she’s worried about right now, she’ll tell you she’s worried about passing her driver’s license test. Upon first meeting her, she seem in every way to be a typical, happy 18-year old. However Diana’s life has been anything but typical.

Diana has been in foster care since she was two years old. She and her sister were removed from their mother’s care due to abuse and placed into the foster care system. The sisters were kept together at first, but soon separated. Over her time in the system, Diana had 34 placements in two different states. “It was just…hectic,” Diana says.  “My life always felt so chaotic. I never felt like I had a moment to take a breath, or knew who to turn to when I needed help.”

At the end of 2016, Diana’s life took two fortuitous turns. First, she reconnected with a woman who had been the apartment manager at an apartment complex where Dianna lived when she was younger. “She was like a confidant of mine when I was a kid,” Diana explains. When they reconnected, Diana’s former apartment manager agreed to become her foster mom. Now Diana lives with her in Lake Forest, and for the first time in her life, she feels settled.  “It’s so peaceful in the house. I feel like I can finally take a breath.”

Shortly after Diana moved in with her new foster mom, her social worker recommended Orangewood Foundation to her. Diana connected with one of our Independent Living Specialists, Alejandra, in March of this year, and the two formed an instant bond. Alejandra and Diana got to work on getting Diana her first part-time job. Alejandra helped Diana polish her resume, and connected her with another local nonprofit to get professional interview clothes. Diana had an interview with a local restaurant on the same day that she got her new interview clothes, and she was hired on the spot! Today she’s been working for a little over a month, and she loves it.

Diana and Alejandra are now working on Diana’s application for an Orangewood scholarship for her first semester at Santiago Canyon College in the fall. Diana wants to study at Santiago for two years and then transfer to a four year college. When she graduates, she wants to be an elementary school teacher. When we asked her to describe what Orangewood and Alejandra meant to her, Diana didn’t hesitate. “Stability,” she said firmly. “I know that I can call Alejandra whenever I need anything. Even if it’s something Orangewood doesn’t provide, I know she will connect me to someone who does. I’ve never had stability like that before, and it means so much.”

06/29/2017 - Introducing the Class of 2017!

It’s hard to believe that four years have passed since Orangewood opened Samueli Academy, our public charter high school for foster and community teens. Over these first years, our first class of freshmen has helped shaped the school into an innovative and successful place of learning. In their first year, they created the school mascot, the “Firewolves,” which combines the tenacity of the phoenix and the loyalty of a wolf pack. They excelled academically and in their extracurricular pursuits, and consistently demonstrated the school values of “Trust, Respect, Responsibility.” And a few weeks ago, on a Monday night at the Sergerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, they became our school’s first graduates.

During the ceremony, senior class president Jason Acosta, and Valedictorian Violeta Vega addressed their classmates. Jason recalled how strange it was to enroll in a school “that didn’t even have a building constructed,” and praised his peers for “taking a chance and putting our trust into the promise of a unique educational experience.” Violeta called her peers “trailblazers” and remarked on how uniquely prepared the class was to take on college and other future pursuits.

Head of School Anthony Saba could barely contain his emotions as he addressed the class. “You have given me hope that an innovative educational experience works,” he said. “I can’t even describe how proud of you we all are.” Keynote speaker Dr. Henry Samueli discussed the “truly remarkable achievements” of Samueli Academy in its first four years, including the 99% graduation rate, the 97% attendance rate, and the majority of the students on the honor roll. Additionally, Samueli noted, 97% of the first graduating class were accepted to a college or university.

At the beginning of the ceremony, Jason Acosta asked on behalf of the class for the teachers to come to the stage to receive a rowdy round of applause from the students. As the ceremony closed, the teachers reciprocated, forming a circle around the student section to deliver an equally rowdy round of applause complete with the school’s signature “firewolf” howl. After the ceremony, students, families, faculty, and supporters of the school celebrated the graduates with punch and cookies. Graduate Ivan Mendoza, wearing leis of candy and money made by his mother and grandmother said “If I hadn’t come to Samueli Academy, I don’t think I would have found myself or figured out who I want to be.”

Congratulations to our first graduating class! Samueli Academy Class of 2017, we are all so proud of you, and we can’t wait to see where your futures will take you!

06/13/2017 - Samueli Academy’s First Graduation

Samueli High’s first graduating class is off to college (OC Register)

Click here to read the story.

06/12/2017 - 18th Annual 44 Women for Orangewood Scholarship Luncheon

Wednesday, June 1, 2022
Balboa Bay Resort

The dynamic ladies of Orangewood’s 44 Women for Orangewood auxiliary hosed a successful luncheon that raised $340,000 for Orangewood youth. Deidre Pujols, founder of Open Gate International and Strike Out Slavery, and Junely Merwin, an Orangewood youth, spoke at the event. If you’ve missed the event, stay tuned to

If you have any questions about the event, contact info@orangewoodfoundation.org.

06/09/2017 - Simone Biles at 44 Women Scholarship Lunch

Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles hopes to inspire Orange County’s foster youth (OC Register)

Click here to read the article.

05/25/2017 - Brandon’s Story

Helping current and former foster youth overcome their painful pasts is the reason Orangewood Foundation was formed. Each year, we work with nearly 2,000 youth, helping them prepare for adulthood with programs that offer health & wellness, housing, life skills & employment, and education services. We’re particularly proud of the courage and determination foster youth possess. Brandon is just one example.

Brandon was in foster care for more than eight years – “eight years and seven months,” he notes. When Brandon was just nine years old, he and his four siblings were removed from their home because their mom couldn’t care for them. They had been living in a garage with one king size bed and little food or clothing. The five children were taken in by a loving couple who became their foster parents. But, for Brandon, it felt odd being taken care of by strangers. Ultimately, he grew to love the couple as if they were his biological parents. He also felt out of place socially and at school due to being in foster care. “In school I had a separate counselor from my friends and peers due to the fact that I was a foster child,” Brandon explains. “It felt strange being around my peers knowing that they all lived with their biological parents and I would never be able to experience that.”

Today, Brandon is finishing his first year of college at U.C. Santa Cruz, thanks in part to a scholarship from Orangewood. The scholarship helps him pay for school fees, food, supplies, etc. He is majoring in business and raising his daughter, Annalise, with his girlfriend who is also in college. Ultimately, his goal is to become either a bank manager or an English teacher – and to be a good father to Annalise.

He says, “I have two motivations for going to college. I want to graduate and have a successful career to show that foster kids can be successful. So many people look at foster kids as though they will never amount to anything. I want to prove them wrong! More personally, I want to be a role model for my daughter. I want to support her financially and give her the life she deserves.”

He adds, “I am so grateful to Orangewood Foundation and its donors. My Orangewood scholarship has made my life significantly less stressful.”

04/24/2017 - Alejandra’s Story

Orangewood’s Peer Mentor program is a way for former foster youth who have successfully transitioned from foster youth into independent adulthood to serve as positive role models to current foster youth. For Alejandra, the Peer mentor Program is a chance to give back to Orangewood, and to connect with current foster youth and support them the way that Orangewood supported her.

Alejandra was not placed into foster care until she was 16, but the trauma in her childhood began when she was much younger. When Alejandra was in elementary school, her mom began dating a man who soon moved in with the family. When Alejandra was only five years old, her mother’s boyfriend began molesting her and her sister. “We tried to tell our mom about the abuse and she just told us to lock our door at night,” Alejandra remembers. The abuse continued for eight years.

When Alejandra was 16, she opened up to one of her teachers about what had happened at home. Alejandra was then removed from her mother’s care and place into foster care, along with her 5 siblings. A year later, their mother regained custody of Alejandra and her siblings.  Although Alejandra was only 17, her mother kicked her out of their house and Alejandra moved in with her boyfriend. When the relationship with her boyfriend ended, Alejandra had nowhere to go. “I had this box full of pamphlets and information that a social worker had given me when I was placed in foster care,” Alejandra says, “so I opened it up to see if there was any information that could help me find a place to live.” In the box, Alejandra found information about Orangewood’s Rising Tide transitional housing program.

Alejandra applied and was accepted into Orangewood’s housing program, and moved into an apartment with her young daughter, Victoria, in late 2014. With Orangewood’s help, Alejandra decided to pursue a career in social work. Rising Tide staff helped her enroll in Santa Ana College to pursue a Human Services degree, and she is receiving Orangewood scholarships to help with books and other education-related materials. Staff members also helped Alejandra with a plan to save money to buy her first car.

“Orangewood’s help has meant everything to me,” Alejandra says. “The staff have helped me understand that I’m worth so much more than I ever thought… that I can be and achieve anything that I set my mind to.” Looking for an opportunity to give back to Orangewood and to connect with younger foster youth, in 2015, Alejandra became an Orangewood peer mentor. Beyond working with current foster youth, Alejandra says the best part of the Peer Mentor program is the opportunity to connect with the other peer mentors. “They are not only some of my closest friends, but they are great examples of what I want from my future. I see a lot of what I want to do and who I want to be in the group of peer mentors, and I am so thankful to have their advice, motivation, and support.”

04/16/2017 - Stars and Stripes Tournament

June 22 – 26, 2022
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

When: June 22 – 26, 2022
Where: Hilton Los Cabos, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Join Orangewood Foundation and other local charities at the Stars & Stripes Tournament, a golf tournament, fishing tournament and music festival. The popular event has raised more than $40 million to local charities including Orangewood Foundation.

For more information about the event contact info@orangewoodfoundation.org.