In California, 46% of students in the foster care system do not graduate high school. Foster youth are not the only children struggling to succeed. Teens living in poverty are 25% less likely to graduate from high school than their middle-income peers. Knowing these dismal statistics, Orangewood Foundation’s vision was to create an educational environment that would help students graduate and ultimately break the cycle of generational poverty and abuse. That school: Samueli Academy.

As a public charter school, private capital is needed to buy the land and build the school.

In late 2011, a $25,000,000 capital campaign was launched to build the first and second phases of the project. It was completed in 2015 thanks to the many individuals, corporations and foundations who rallied together to support the high school.

A third $35.5 million phase capital effort is now underway. The Campaign for Innovation in Education will fund the building of a Residence for foster youth, 7th & 8th grade building and a Student Innovation Center.

Annual Report

Download the 2018-2019 Annual Report

Foster youth change placements as many as 22 times by their 18th birthday. This often means a change of school. As you might expect, this upheaval and instability negatively impacts their educational progress. Working collaboratively with former foster youth, Orangewood Foundation designed the Youth Connected Residence. It will be the next level of care afforded to foster youth on the Samueli Academy campus. “For housing to be on campus…that will be huge. I could have focused on school instead of worrying about my living situation,” a former foster youth states.

Too many of the students who come to Samueli Academy as freshman are multiple years behind grade level in Math and English. Passed from one grade to the next without sufficient understanding of the fundamentals, they cannot write a full paragraph or complete basic math problems. Because students must pass their classes in high school in order to graduate, it is our job to get them to grade level as quickly as possible. Samueli Academy has done an excellent job of helping to catch a student up academically but we can be even more effective by starting to work with that student two years earlier.

To enhance the educational experience at Samueli Academy, additional academic and youth support spaces will be added: an Engineering Fabrication Lab, a Design Lab, College Career & Alumni Center, Student Union and Student Support Services for our foster youth.

The Campaign for Innovation in Education
is being spearheaded by Campaign Co-chairs Susan Samueli and Shannon Tarnutzer and Capital Campaign Director, Pam Shambra. If you would like to make a contribution, please contact Pam at 714-619-0211 or

Our Supporters

  • Samueli Foundation
  • ABAR Foundation
  • Anonymous
  • Michelle Boland
  • The Larry and Helen Hoag Foundation
  • Tom and Karen Linden
  • A. Gary Anderson Family Foundation
  • The Barth Family
  • Anderson Community Partners
  • George and Gail Pla
  • Dhont Family Foundation
  • The Ueberroth Family Foundation
  • The Podlich Family
  • Charles and Ling Zhang
  • Affordable Housing Program
  • DevTo Support Foundation
  • The Klein Family
  • E-Rate Program
  • Jaffe Family Foundation
  • Jaime Elizabeth and Steve Hong
  • Stars & Stripes Children’s Foundation
  • Rick and Adrienne Matros
  • The Stanley E. Hanson Foundation
  • The Wilken Families
  • The Rodosky Family
  • Greg and Julie Dunlap
  • The Crean Foundation
  • Shannon and Byron Tarnutzer
  • 6-18 Foundation for Hope
  • Tom and Pat Ricks
  • The Bartholomew Family
  • The Johnny Carson Foundation
  • RD Olson
  • Shelley and Phil Belling
  • John and Toni Ginger
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Sherri Bovino and Greg Burden
  • Livingston Family Foundation
  • Steve and Tracy Friedmann
  • State of CA Energy Grant
Capital Campaign Committee

Susan Samueli
Co-Chair of the Board and Vice President


Shannon Tarnutzer
Community Philanthropist


Jaime Hong
Vice President, Sales
Fidelity National Title Company

Sandi Jackson
Community Philanthropist

Joe Lozowski


Tangram Interiors

Adrienne Matros

Clinical Psychologist

Rick Sherburne

Executive Vice President


Samueli Academy Capital Campaign is being spearheaded by Capital Campaign Director, Pam Shambra.

Call or email Pam at 714-619-0211 or

  • Samueli Foundation
  • Capital Group
  • A. Gary Anderson Family Foundation
  • Steven & Kathryn Keefer
  • Stars & Stripes Children’s Foundation
  • First Foundation Bank
  • Dhont Family Foundation
  • George Hoag Family Foundation
  • Kay Family Foundation
  • Bentley Mills, Inc.
  • Julia & George Argyros / Stephanie Argyros /
  • The Thormahlen Family
  • Argyros Family Foundation
  • DevTo Support Foundation
  • The Rodosky Family
  • Hausman Family Foundation
  • Hoag Foundation
  • Bruce & Lynn Fetter
  • Marie Gray
  • Gregg & Celin Miller
  • The Junior League of Orange County, California, Inc.
  • The Gordon Foundation
  • Jaffe Family Foundation
  • Philip & Shelley Belling
  • Wells Fargo
  • Jaime Elizabeth & Steve Hong
  • Sandi & Doug Jackson
  • Janet & James “Walkie” Ray
  • ABAR Foundation
  • Bill & Kay Healey
  • David L. Horowitz Family
  • PlanNet
  • Opus Community Foundation
  • Joel & Karen Goldhirsh
  • McDermott Will & Emery
  • James & Susanne Moore
  • Anonymous
  • Greg & Victoria Scott
  • The Bartholomew Family
  • Rick & Julie Sherburne
  • Joseph & Sonya Lozowski / Tangram Interiors
  • LPA, Inc.
  • The Crean Foundation
  • Robert & Suzanne Searles
  • The Gilbert & Jacki Cisneros Foundation
  • Dave & Renee Ritchie
  • The Walton Family Foundation
  • Frank T. Suryan, Jr.
  • Toshiba America Information Systems
  • Shirley Pepys
  • The Barth Family
  • The Fieldstone Foundation
  • Microsemi Corporation
  • La Casa
  • Experian
  • The Rouda Family
  • Michelle & Steve Boland
  • Tracy & Kyle Theodore
  • The Podlich Family
  • Wanlyn & Benton Bejach
  • John & Sherry Phelan
  • Martin Family Trust
  • Lennar
  • Jim & Oralee McNamara Family

Project Milestones

July, 2011 – Escrow is closed on a 7.1 acre parcel of land at 1901 Fairview St. in Santa Ana, CA on which The Academy will be built.

July, 2011 – Escrow is closed on a 7.1 acre parcel of land at 1901 Fairview St. in Santa Ana, CA on which The Academy will be built.

October 27, 2011 – The Capital Campaign is launched with a goal of raising $25,000,000.

February 15, 2012 – The Orange County Department of Education’s (OCDE) grants its first-ever Charter to The Academy.

July 2, 2012 – Head of School, Anthony Saba, is hired.

December, 2012 – The Capital Campaign surpassed the 50% mark.

April, 2013 – Six dynamic teachers are hired.

August, 2013 – The Academy temporary campus is completed.

August 22, 2013 – The Academy opened its doors for the first time to the inaugural class of 127 freshmen.

April, 2014 – Ground is broken on the permanent three-story Academic Building (above).

July 3, 2014 – The Topping Off Ceremony of the Academic Building is held (below).

August 21, 2014 – The second class of 128 freshman began school.

August 17, 2015 – The Academic Building and Dhont Community Center opened to students and the third class of 130 freshmen began school.

September 12, 2015 – Orangewood Children’s Foundation renames The Academy to Samueli Academy.

December 15, 2015 – The Capital Campaign reached its $25,000,000 goal with a $250,000 gift from Experian.

August 14, 2016 – The fourth class of freshmen began school. With four classes of students, Samueli Academy reached its full enrollment.

November, 2016 – A Student Alumni Director was hired to ensure a smooth transition into college and college persistence for the soon-to-be graduated seniors.

June 12, 2017 – The inaugural class of Samueli Academy graduated. 99% of students graduated. 98% were accepted into community colleges or four year universities.

March 2018 – The Charter is renewed by the Orange County Department of Education.

June 2018 – WASC awards a six year accreditation renewal.

February 2019 – The State of California approved the residential education program for implementation.

May 2, 2019 – Ground is broken on the Residential Building, Student Innovation Center, and 7th & 8th Grade Building.

July 2, 2020 – Campaign goal of $35,500,000 raised. Thank you to all our generous supporters!

Late July 2020 – Construction on Youth Connected Residence, 7th & 8th Grade Building, and Innovation Center completed!

download groundbreaking PDF


“Samueli Academy changed my life in so many ways. Coming from local gang areas, I didn’t think I would ever be in a college environment. I always saw myself going to go work for my dad’s landscape business. Samueli Academy opened plenty of doors for me. They opened doors to an internship in an office, which I never, ever imagined myself working in.

Because of Samueli Academy, I have hope that I’m going to be working in an office. I’m hoping I will make a difference in the world. Mr. Polizzi, Mr. Kalbenn and Mr. Saba never, ever, gave up on me. They’ve always been there for me and they’ve always pushed me to succeed and they’re the reason that I graduated. I don’t know where I’d be right now if it wasn’t for Samueli Academy.”

AJ Castenada
Sophomore, Fullerton College

“Samueli truly is a unique school, a place where learning is exciting and connected to 21st century job skills. It’s a community of engagement, inclusion and being connected. The teachers and administration are connected to business people to make sure that the students are ready no matter what career they take. They are connected to and care about the students. Whenever the school contacts me, it’s always, “how can we help?”

My son has been on an IEP throughout school. He is incredibly shy. I’m beginning to see him flourish and build more confidence. I’m just so blessed that he’s able to attend this school because if he hadn’t he would be lost.”

Sara Garske
Parent of Samueli Academy Student

“I went to 13 different schools as I grew up. I’m actually a high school dropout. I knew that I wanted my child to go to the best school and not go through the obstacles I went through. When Samueli Academy opened up I researched it. I knew this was the school for her. She didn’t want to go there at first. She wanted to go with her friends. She loves it now. She loves the people…the teachers and her new friends. And she loves the project based learning. It’s easier for her to retain information she learns and it’s more hands-on which is I think very important for anyone that is learning anything new. She also loves small class sizes and the field trips which are opportunities to go see other companies.

I think the Samueli Academy is a blessing. I wish there was something available like this for me when I was growing up because maybe I wouldn’t have dropped out of high school.”

Guadalupe Perez
Parent of Samueli Academy Student

Public Charter School for all students - no tuition fees. Take high school and college classes at the same time.