31 Oct Ranney Draper’s Quest to Equip OC Students for College
Laguna Beach resident Ranney Draper has high hopes for Orange County students. The ardent supporter of education not only wants to see every student graduate from high school but also have equal opportunity to earn a college degree – and he’s banking on their success. Certainly, he’s eager for young adults to choose elevating careers that lead to higher income potential – perhaps even altering the trajectory of their entire families for generations to come. But Draper’s drive to help Orange County youth pursue higher education goes beyond economics; it’s rooted deeply in American ideals, or as Abraham Lincoln wrote, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” And thanks to Draper’s efforts, many local young scholars are part of a generation leading the future as college and university graduates. Since1998, the former real estate industry entrepreneur has made higher education the focus of his philanthropy, and in doing so, has helped paved the way for scores of high school students to gain better access to college.
“There are lots of ways for philanthropy to tackle the inequalities present in society, but I chose to focus so I could be more effective with my giving,” he said.
“The statistics bear out that people who have a four-year degree earn more than those with only a high school diploma. It’s blatantly unfair to see talented kids with plenty of capacity and ambition be left behind,” Draper explained. “It’s unfair that lower-income students don’t have an equal chance to go to college and succeed, so we’re helping to change that.”
Draper began his quest to tackle what he perceived as inequity of opportunity for Orange County high schoolers in 1998 by funding after-school programs. Although those early initiatives focused mostly on providing homework assistance, he pivoted to supporting programs that prepare students to apply to college, qualify for financial aid, and earn acceptance at colleges and universities of their choice.
Over the past 14 years, he has worked with OCCF to establish the Helping Kids Succeed initiative. Since then, the initiative has granted nearly $5 million, serving more than 100,000 at-risk youth.
“We want to help Orange County have a higher college admission and completion rate for young adults,” he said.
Draper’s efforts – and those undertaken by other youth-serving organizations – are paying off, but there’s a lot more ground to cover.
According to the most-recent OC Community Indicators Report produced by a consortium of nine entities with leading partner, the Children’s and Families Commission, only half of Orange County students last year completed the necessary coursework to be eligible for admission to University of California (UC) or California State University (CSU) campuses. Although this rate surpasses the statewide average, the gap between the ethnic groups with the highest and lowest eligibility rates remains substantial and persistent, showing little lasting improvement.
The report revealed that, at 75 percent, Asian students are the most likely to be UC/CSU eligible but comprise only 19 percent of all high school graduates. In contrast, Latino students are the least likely to be UC/CSU eligible (34 percent) but comprise 43 percent of all high school graduates.
Such data reinforces Draper’s determination to enable all students the opportunity to apply successfully to four-year institutions and complete degree programs – regardless of their family’s race, ethnicity or income level. That’s why he’s been a steadfast champion of Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), formed to help close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college and other post-secondary opportunities. AVID uses research-based strategies and curriculum to develop students’ critical thinking, literacy and math skills across all content areas. Thanks to Draper’s contributions, the Orange County Department of Education has been able to expand AVID to 95 middle and high schools in 14 districts serving approximately 13,600 students in Orange County. Of the 1,367 seniors who graduated in 2013, 90 percent met the four-year college entrance requirements and 88 percent applied to four-year universities with 68.6 percent being accepted.
In addition, the Draper Family Foundation Fund has awarded 117 participating AVID students with scholarships totaling more than $823,000.
Draper also has provided initial funding to Tiger Woods Foundation for its Orange County College Action Network (OC CAN) program. He points out that many scholarship programs treat college admission as the goal, but for a low-income or first-generation college student, admission is just the beginning – graduating is the biggest hurdle.
To give first-generation scholars every opportunity to graduate, OC CAN supports 10 students each year to help them get scholarships.
“Many of these kids come from tough backgrounds,” he notes. “Helping them succeed is a huge payback for us. I want them to have every opportunity that my own kids and grandchildren have had.”
To learn more about OCCF’s Helping Kids Succeed initiative, contact Todd Hanson, vice president of OCCF’s Center for Engaged Philanthropy.