April 17, 2018 – San Diego, CA – The San Diego Foundation (TSDF) today announced the Community Scholars Initiative, a pilot project that will help as many as 300 more low-income and first-generation students prepare for, pay for and persist through college over the next two years.

The effort was launched with a $500,000 grant TSDF received from CA-based College Futures Foundation to improve the economic future of San Diego by increasing educational opportunity and attainment. The initiative pairs needs-based scholarships with wraparound services, including increasing understanding about how to finance post-secondary education. Academic tutoring, family support and counseling are provided, as well as help with the need to balance education with part-time employment to increase college access and persistence that results in graduation for San Diego students.

In its first year, TSDF partnered with the nonprofit Reality Changers and Mar Vista High School, Chula Vista High School and Southwest High School in the Sweetwater Unified High School District. Reality Changers trains high school instructors to deliver its successful College Apps Academy program to support students and families with the college application process.

During the pilot program, students are educated about how to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and other college scholarship applications, including TSDF Common Scholarship Application. 78 students qualified for and received needs-based college scholarships for the 2018-2019 academic year. TSDF partnered with Sweetwater School District due to focus on students traditionally under-represented in post-secondary education primarily due to financing.

Sweetwater School District has a high concentration of Hispanic students (75%) and high graduation rate (87%). According to the San Diego Regional EDC, Hispanics will be San Diego’s largest ethnic group by 2030. Yet, 34 percent of Hispanics do not finish high school and 85 percent do not hold a bachelor’s degree. Public Policy Institute of California research also found only a fraction of students in California capable of earning a degree actually do, and many low-income and minority students are greatly underrepresented in colleges and universities.

“Diversity in post-secondary education and the innovation economy is an important component of inclusive economic growth in San Diego County,” emphasized Kathlyn Mead, President and CEO of TSDF. “The Community Scholars Initiative will help establish a more comprehensive and effective way to drive currently under-represented student success in higher education in our region.”

In addition to funding from the College Futures Foundation and TSDF, the initiative recently secured a $1 million gift from the Barbara Monroe Scholarship Fund at TSDF to break down systemic barriers to academic success and increase college attainment for low-income youth. Those interested in supporting the fund can contact TSDF at 619-235-2300 or info@sdfoundation.org.

The effort builds upon TSDF’s continued leadership in increasing access to higher education. Founded in 1997, The San Diego Foundation Community Scholarship Program is the largest scholarship provider in San Diego County outside the university system, granting more than $28.7 million to thousands of students throughout the region, including 63 percent of students who receive needs-based scholarships.

“The Community Scholars Initiative demonstrates the importance of investing in San Diego’s young people by providing need-based scholarships paired with support services to students who represent the region’s untapped potential,” said Monica Lozano, President and CEO of College Futures Foundation. “Making this kind of difference requires a concerted effort from many who care, which is why The San Diego Foundation is working together with local school districts and community-based organizations to open up educational and economic opportunities for the next generation.”

Alongside its community partners, TSDF will continue to work with philanthropists in the region to increase unrestricted needs-based scholarship funds and eliminate barriers for underrepresented students attending college.

“Students in our community possess immense potential but oftentimes they face an uphill battle due to challenges such as limited access to resources and the growing cost of higher education,” shared Filemón Jara, AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) Coordinator and Teacher at Mar Vista High School. “We are excited by the Community Scholars Program because it’s one of the first times partners from multiple sectors are working together toward a comprehensive goal that addresses the complete needs of our young people.”

About The San Diego Foundation

The San Diego Foundation maximizes the impact of your charitable giving. We mobilize philanthropic resources to advance quality of life, increase social impact and champion civic engagement. For more than 40 years, The Foundation and our donors have granted more than $1 billion to grow a vibrant San Diego region. Learn more on our website, and consider a donation to the Community Scholarship Fund, which helps increase college access and attainment among needs-based students in San Diego County.

About College Futures Foundation

College Futures Foundation believes that a vibrant future for California’s economy and communities requires more bachelor’s degrees, and that every student should have the chance to succeed in college. College Futures aims to increase opportunities for low-income and underrepresented students by removing barriers to college degrees. Established in 2005, College Futures awards nearly $20 million in grants annually. Together with its grantees and partners, College Futures works toward more graduates for a thriving California.


Vince Heald, Beck Ellman Heald, 858-453-9600, vheald@behmedia.com
Justin Nunez, The San Diego Foundation, 619-235-2300, justin@sdfoundation.org