By Emily Glory Peters
Many students find college preparation stressful, but the terrain can be especially rocky for first-generation students. Unable to rely on the experiences of their family as a guide, these students are tasked with navigating testing, admissions, financial aid, and housing on their own—and that’s all before classes begin.
Launched in 2002, Scripps College Academy (SCA) is a donor-funded program that helps high-achieving young women in the Los Angeles area prepare for success as the first in their families to attend college. Led by Scripps staff, faculty, and students, SCA offers several no-cost services to its “SCA scholars” including college-readiness workshops, a year-round college preparatory program, and a summer residential experience at Scripps to give students a taste of college life.
Power of foundation grants for Scripps College Academy
Though also supported through individual donors, says Scripps’ Director of Foundation, Corporate, and Government Relations Jenn Mangali, foundation grants make up a sizable slice of SCA’s budget—anywhere from 30 to 50 percent. Two recent grants this year from the Joseph Drown Foundation and The Green Foundation offer a snapshot of how impactful these gifts can be.
“Scripps College Academy has a 100 percent success rate in our scholars applying for financial aid and ultimately enrolling in college,” says Mangali, adding that, compared to students with similar backgrounds, SCA scholars also attend more select institutions and have higher graduation rates.
“We’ve been able to grow SCA from a two-week summer experience involving a few dozen students to a powerful multiyear program that helps hundreds of young women enter higher education,” she says. “None of this would be possible without consistent funding from foundations.”
In addition to sustaining existing programs, access to funding at this level is critical to helping SCA act on new ideas. It was donor aid that fueled the 2017 launch of the academy’s STRIVE (Successful Talented Resilient Impactful Vocal Empowered) mentorship program, which links current scholars to SCA alumnae that have successfully moved on to college. Through STRIVE, SCA has added an additional 150 women to the annual number of students served—substantially increasing the program’s reach. And last year in the wake of the pandemic, donor aid made a defining difference in helping SCA invest in new technology and retain the staff needed to offer its signature programs online.
“Pivoting the summer intensive program was our biggest lift because it’s a live-in experience at Scripps where scholars access classroom instruction, dorm life, extracurricular activities, and mentoring. We were concerned they wouldn’t bond with the staff and with each other because we were virtual, but I’m happy to say it went very well,” says Director of Scripps College Academy Roberto Escobar. “Mornings began with free discussion, and we had daily themes like Dream Career Day and Twin Day where scholars paired up and dressed like each other. They really bought into the program and were fully receptive to the virtual classes, assignments, and lectures.”
The need for continued foundation support
Although the Joseph Drown Foundation and The Green Foundation have supported Scripps College Academy for the last several years, renewed grants are never guaranteed. Scripps applies for funding each year, and awards can shift based on anything from program outcomes to foundation resources to the impacts of a global pandemic.
For Mangali, receiving aid from foundations that continue to prioritize the success of first-gen students has been a gift in every sense of the word. And while the goal remains to have all SCA scholars enroll in a college of their choice, the academy has also proven to be a helpful pipeline to bring more underrepresented students to Scripps.
“Donor support has enabled hundreds of gifted first-generation and students of color to pursue their academic dreams at institutions all over the country, including Scripps College. This year, we’re delighted to welcome two new SCA alums as members of Scripps’ Class of 2025,” she says. “We’re grateful for the foundations whose grants help us equip these students with the skills they need to flourish in college and make a difference as educated individuals. That’s Scripps’ mission in action.”
Donor support makes a college education a reality for first-gen women across LA. To support this work, click here and select “Other” to indicate a gift to SCA.