The concept for Samueli Academy was created by Sandi Jackson and Susan Samueli about 20 years ago. As members of the board of directors of Orangewood Foundation, the two benefactors took a special interest in the low high school graduation rates among teens in parts of Orange County, including foster care teens served by Orangewood. According to the Academy, 46% of California students in the foster care system do not graduate high school. Foster youth are not the only children struggling to succeed. Teens living in poverty are 25% less likely to graduate from high school than their middle-income peers. Knowing these dismal statistics, Orangewood Foundation’s vision was to create an educational environment to help students graduate and break the cycle of generational poverty and abuse. That school: Samueli Academy.
Jackson and Samueli began seeking educational opportunities for local high school students and researching best practices around the country to provide scholastic support to an underserved community. The academy focuses on core competencies such as work-based learning, college readiness, state-of-the-art technology, project-based learning, and after-school programs.
Samueli Academy introduced its first class of freshmen in August 2013. The school has expanded every year and now serves grades 7-8 along with grades 9-12. Samueli Academy now has a capacity of 775 students and ranks among the top 5% of high schools in California and the United States. 100% of their students graduated, including 100% of youth in foster care. 82% of students were accepted into college, and 53% of graduates earned a 3.0 GPA or higher.
PLANNET, which has roots as a supporter of the Orangewood Children’s Foundation, has helped take the Samueli Academy from concept to reality. PLANNET worked closely with LPA as the architect on the academic buildings through design charts to construction documents. The 7.1-acre urban site in Santa Ana, California, also houses an on-site 40,000-square-foot residential village built by Lennar (WHA architect) for foster youth who need a stable living environment to support their academic endeavors.
Features of the campus include state-of-the-art, interactive classrooms (including design and engineering labs) with cutting-edge technology for all students, a college/career resource center, a performing arts theatre, and the most recently completed phase, a 22,000 SF athletic gymnasium designed by Berliner Architects. The academy has wireless capabilities and cameras spanning the campus to provide safety and security to all students and staff.
PLANNET provided oversight services during the project’s implementation phase and spearheaded the schools’ technology efforts. Initially, the PLANNET team performed a technology assessment of the communications technology, voice, security, and audiovisual system needs, followed by creating low voltage plans and drawings for their classrooms and administrative and residential buildings in conjunction with the architects. PLANNET performed the LAN/WAN/WLAN design and assisted with design and bid support for the virtualized server and storage platforms and VoIP system for both the Academy and the Foundation.
The Samueli Academy continues to serve the youth of Orange County, and PLANNET is a staunch supporter of their efforts.
For more information about the Samueli Academy, click here.