As we enter into the season of high school graduations, and we celebrate the educational journey of our young people all over Orange County, the Santa Ana Unified School District is proud to have a significant increase of 11.5% in graduation rates over the last seven years, surpassing the State and County average with 91.6% of the District’s high school seniors graduating with their diploma and a direct pathway to college, the workforce, and military. Among the class of 2017, 54 will also graduate with their AA Degrees from Santa Ana College as part of the Santa Ana Unified School District dual college enrollment high school, Middle College High School.

It’s a promise the District has given to its 53,000 students, who are 96% Latino, 60% English Language Learners, and 91% socio-economically disadvantaged. This promise guarantees all students will be provided with a high quality education that has an array of program options and resources to support them to reach their full potential regardless of the challenges and obstacles that they may have faced.

For some of our graduates, the road to commencement has been long and challenging. But with our support, they are thriving and are on a solid path to success in college and career.

When students enroll in the Santa Ana Unified School District, many of them have never spoken English. While many of our students may begin their educational journey as early as preschool or kindergarten, others enter midway in elementary, intermediate, and even high school, and are expected to learn the English language, reach grade-level standards, and to ultimately graduate with 21st century skills. Realizing that they begin on an uneven playing field, our students work extremely hard to learn and excel with the support of teachers, staff, parents, and community members nurturing, cheering, and encouraging them along the way. As students overcome each obstacle and celebrate the many milestones, often unknowingly, they are building traits that will benefit them and last a lifetime – perseverance, determination, and confidence.

While our students remain focused on keeping their eye on the prize – graduation, college, and careers – the District remains committed to supporting their efforts with expanding rigorous programs and advanced placement courses to provide students more access, allowing students to take college courses simultaneously on their high school campuses to get a jump start on their college education, increasing the use of online learning to maximize their learning experiences, creating evening classes to provide students with flexibility, offering after school and Saturday tutoring for students who need additional academic support, and increasing mental health services to support the emotional and mental needs of students.

Our soaring graduation rates and students attending and graduating from college are proof that all students can achieve with encouragement and support. This is evident in the stories that I hear and the letters and emails that I receive from alumni crediting the education and support of the Santa Ana Unified School District for their success as students at some of the most highly competitive higher education institutions in the world such as Harvard, Cornell, Brown, Princeton, Dartmouth, Georgetown, USC, and all the University of California and California State Universities campuses.

There are great things happening in Santa Ana to ensure students are equipped and ready to compete in our global society. Celebrate with me and join the excitement and enthusiasm of this graduating season as students all across Orange County receive their diplomas and begin the next chapter of their lives.

  Stefanie P. Phillips, Ed.D. Superintendent of Santa Ana Unified School District

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at

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