The Santa Ana community has seen a transformation in recent years regarding the education of its high school-aged students. The programs instituted at the Nicholas Academic Centers have given previously struggling students a leg up that has stoked their academic success while also providing a boon for the community.
The Nicholas Academic Centers assist the Santa Ana and Valley high schools by providing free tutoring and mentoring for underserved students. Since its founding, the centers have aided hundreds of students through its programs. More than 230 high school students who used the program have graduated and gone on to college. Students have been awarded $2.7 million in scholarships and over $600,000 of direct-gap financing from the foundation to assist them in their academic pursuits. Graduates of the program have gone on to study at a variety of educational institutions including the University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Irvine and Chapman University. Many students have even received full-ride scholarships.
The programs do not merely offer traditional academic guidance, but also cultural education. Students are invited to attend performances at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Lakers and Angels games, and special presentations from Nobel Prize winners and Emmy Award winners. The well-rounded experience allows students to encounter a variety of institutions they would otherwise not have had the opportunity to see.
The two men responsible for creating the Nicholas Academic Centers are Henry T. Nicholas III, also known for being the Broadcom co-founder, and retired Orange County Superior Court Judge Jack K. Mandel. They worked together in 2008 to establish the first Nicholas Academic Center for the Santa Ana Unified School District. A second center opened near the Valley High School campus in 2009. The pair received the key to the city of Santa Ana for their work assisting in high school students’ educations. Nicholas provided $10 million to the program in order to continue its operations.
The goal of the program is to create future leaders with diverse backgrounds who worked to earn their academic, cultural and economic educations. The most telling statistic concerning the success of the program is its 100% rate for students qualifying to attend college. All of the 81 seniors who enrolled in the program this past year will be proceeding to college this fall. This is especially telling when compared to the 61% rate for Hispanic graduates nationwide. The program’s effectiveness continues after students leave it, as 92% of the program’s graduates who went on to attend four-year universities are still enrolled and succeeding, compared to the 77% national average. Similarly, students have even begun to find success with internships and job hunting as the work ethic from the program carries over into real life.