Samueli Academy celebrates completion of campus construction

Newport Beach philanthropist Susan Samueli at the Samueli Academy in Santa Ana.
Newport Beach philanthropist Susan Samueli stands outside the Samueli Academy in Santa Ana. The academy, a seventh through 12th-grade charter school, has officially completed its campus construction with a new soccer field and gymnasium.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

It’s time to put the hard hats away at Samueli Academy.

The Santa Ana-based public charter school recently completed its campus construction after a decade of a capital campaign, with the opening of a gymnasium and soccer field on the 7.1-acre campus.

Samueli Academy is a program of nonprofit Orangewood Foundation, which also announced that the school’s 10-year, multiphase capital campaign is now complete. A total of $72 million was raised for the improvements.

It’s a milestone moment for the school, which has a charter from the Orange County Department of Education and expanded to grades seven through 12 this year. Samueli Academy is now at capacity with 775 students.


Many of the youth that Samueli Academy serves are in foster care, though it also enrolls students from the local community.

Corona del Mar philanthropists Susan Samueli and Sandi Jackson sparked the idea for the Samueli Academy some 20 years ago — but it took years to secure the land site. Samueli, who owns the Anaheim Ducks hockey team with her husband Henry, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp., said the school has exceeded her expectations.

“Sandi and I constantly do this, we pinch each other every time we walk on the campus,” Susan Samueli said. “We did this? We did it with a lot of help. When you want to do something, you have to be patient.”

The majority of Samueli students — 58% — qualify as economically disadvantaged, according to U.S. News and World Report. But the school does well in that organization’s annual rankings, consistently placing in the top 6% both in the state and country, and 96% of its students go on to attend a two- or four-year college.

Newport Beach philanthropist Susan Samueli inside an engineering classroom at the Samueli Academy.
Newport Beach philanthropist Susan Samueli stands inside an engineering classroom at the Samueli Academy in Santa Ana.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Anthony Saba, the executive director of Samueli Academy, has been at the school since before it opened its doors in 2013. He said the school’s four-year alumni support program after a student graduates creates a 10-year commitment to each seventh-grader that comes on campus.

“We really, truly are a school that’s dedicated to the college and career long-term success of our kids, in everything that we do,” said Saba, who lives on the Balboa Peninsula.

The school’s project-based learning has adapted to the coronavirus pandemic, he said, once students have come back on campus.

“Online learning is not the same,” Saba said. “This year, on Mondays, they take several high-interest classes, then on Tuesdays through Fridays they do their English and their math and their engineering. We saw right away that we needed to reengage them after two years [of remote learning], especially the kids who had never even been to our campus.”

Samueli Academy is a cause near and dear to Rob Bartholomew’s heart. Bartholomew, a Newport Beach resident who’s the chairman of a capital investment firm, said he donated two classrooms and a dining patio to the school.

Bartholomew had humble beginnings himself, growing up in Hoboken, N.J.. He was the first member of his family to go to college.

“One of the reasons why I personally found the academy and Orangewood to be close to my heart is that I believe in education as a way to grow out of poverty, based on my own experience,” Bartholomew said. “The academy really does provide a high-touch, immersive educational environment.”

Samueli Academy has launched on-campus housing for foster youth, through Orangewood Foundation’s Youth Connected program. Saba said five children are currently in the dorms, which have a capacity of 48 students.

Susan Samueli will enjoy continuing to watch her passion project expand.

“It was not just finding the land,” she said. “It was researching the best schools. We went all over the United States. We wanted to make sure that we created a school that would be successful, loved and the kind of school that this kind of population really needs ... This has become a family for these kids.”

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