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Higher Education Mentoring Program - Overview

Developed in 2001, the Higher Education Mentoring Program is a six-year program that provides low-income Latino high school students from Santa Ana with the academic, social, and financial support needed to graduate from high school and succeed in college.

The program is unique in matching each junior or senior high school student participant with a university student or young professional who is familiar with Latino culture, has overcome traditional barriers, and knows firsthand what it takes to succeed in an institution of higher learning.

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Participants are Latino junior and senior students attending high school in the city of Santa Ana. The Higher Education Mentoring Program serves 50 Latino high school students and 50 parents from Santa Ana each year. We also work with approximately 100 college students annually. Last year, 93% of our youth were low-income and 87% were first-generation college-bound students. In addition, we have 40 professional/college-student mentors who gain valuable leadership and volunteer experience by giving their time to the program.

To date, over 175 students have completed the program. 72 students have graduated college with a B.A./B.S degree and 12 of those also received an M.A/M.S degree. Another 97 students are currently in college, working towards their undergraduate degrees.


17th Annual Higher Education Mentoring Program Graduation, Class of 2018

On May 8, 2018, Project Youth OCBF celebrated the graduation of the 17th Annual Higher Education Mentoring Program’s Class of 2018.  Twenty-seven graduates – 16 girls and 11 boys – graduated from the program after preparing for college for 18 months. All students will be attending college in the fall. Carolyn McKitterick, Program Chair, welcomed (read more)

UCI Pre-Med Graduate Talks About the Higher Education Mentoring Program

Higher Education Mentoring Program Graduate, Class of 2015, shares her UCI Premed experience – Fall of 2015 she attends UCLA to begin her journey to be a doctor I was awarded a scholarship to participate in the 2014 University of California, Irvine Summer Premed Program. This program was a life changing experience. Before starting the program, I was interested in medicine (read more)

Why We Offer This Program

Orange County has become iconic for its wealth and upscale beach communities. And yet at its heart is the city of Santa Ana—a city crippled by high poverty rates, crime, and gang activity. A city where 80% of the residents are Latino and only 60% of adults have a high school diploma. Life in Santa Ana is undoubtedly difficult. So difficult, that the Rockefeller Institute has named it the nation’s toughest city in which to live, both economically and socially.

Living in poverty, our students have experienced firsthand how challenging life can be without a college education. In fact, 85% of our youth are the first in their family to go to college, and, for many, the first to even graduate high school. But their struggles don’t end there. While Latinos represent 42% of Orange County’s youth, they account for 61% of the county’s juvenile probationers, 93% of the youth gang members, 85% of teen mothers and 63% of all high school dropouts.

Education is an obvious solution. The Higher Education Mentoring Program works to effectively meet the needs of Latino youth in Santa Ana by providing them with intensive academic, social, and financial support during high school and throughout their undergraduate studies. Our goal is not only help youth get in to college, but to provide the support and resources they need to beat the odds and graduate.

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Get Started!

If you would like to apply for the Higher Education Mentoring Program, you must be a high school student entering the 11th grade in the fall at a local Santa Ana high school. You can contact the Higher Education Counselor at your high school for an application or you may contact Alejandra Diaz at Project Youth at (714) 480-1925, ext. 100 or adiaz@pyocbf.org.

Testimonials and Success Stories

“I am a third-year student at UC Merced, double majoring in political science and economics. I have been vice president of Students Empowering Dreams, an organization that supports and brings awareness of the CA and Federal DREAM Act to the student body and community. I had the opportunity to lobby at the State Capitol with senators from all of California, meet the governor and Dolores Huerta, and represent my campus at the Students of Color Conference, held at the University of California, Davis. I am a member of the Democrats Club on campus and Occupy UC Merced. Additionally, I am involved with UC Merced Pre-Law Society, a club for students who want to attend law school. As a member, I have been able to travel with the club to tour law schools and learn about the application process. Though many stereotype Merced to be boring because it’s in the middle of nowhere, it is an amazing place. I am most definitely nowhere near bored and am having a blast!”

-Higher Education Mentoring Program graduate and college student

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“Growing up in a single-parent household was difficult because money was scarce. I wanted to not only be the first in my family to graduate high school, but the first to attend college. But I wasn’t sure how to get there or what steps I would need to take. The Higher Education Mentoring Program took me step-by-step through the college application and preparation process. It pushed me to strive for a better future that includes a college degree and well-paying career.”

-Higher Education Mentoring Program graduate and college student

(2 of 4)

“The program taught me how to use a credit card, how to manage my time, and how to study better. By attending the workshops every month, I learned how to become a more responsible adult.”

-Higher Education Mentoring Program graduate and college student

(3 of 4)

“When my daughter first told me that the Higher Education Mentoring Program was helping her to attend college, I was surprised; as an immigrant to the United States, my focus was working long hours to support the basic needs of my family, and I assumed my children would do the same. As it turns out, a college education was the best thing for my daughter and our family. She graduated in June of 2013 with dual bachelor’s in psychology and Chicano studies. She now works with special needs children and is applying for her master’s degree. I eagerly share my family’s story to promote the value of youth obtaining higher education. Thanks to the support of OCBF and its investment in my daughter, she now has a standard of living that is different and better than I ever had. I am truly grateful to OCBF for helping to build a new generation of educated young people.”

-Higher Education Mentoring Program father

(4 of 4)

Let's Get Started!

Call or email us today. Bilingual, Spanish-speaking staff is available.
Alejandra Diaz Coordinator 714.480.1925 x100
Rosa Victor Coordinator 714.480.1925 x121