Bridging the Gap

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hiking_credit Taylor McClanahan
A science-based trip that’s part of the Field Studies Program | Photo by Taylor McClanahan

Newport Harbor Educational Foundation provides funding for tutoring, career mentoring, updated technology and more at Newport Harbor High School.

By Sharon Stello


Back in 1995, the Navigators—a Newport Harbor High School dads group—wanted to replace the library’s old typewriters with computers to improve the quality of education on campus. That simple goal led to the formation of Newport Harbor Educational Foundation, which has since grown to offer programs from tutoring to career mentoring and much more.

Executive Director Diana Long says the foundation recently increased its annual commitment to the campus, aiming to give $550,000 annually, and surpassed that amount last school year, presenting a total of $753,457 to cover programs and services the campus is not able to afford with its allotted budget.

This year’s goal is to provide enough funding to hire an extra counselor to help serve the school’s 2,200 students. Already, the organization pays for tutoring sessions in all subjects by hiring UC Irvine students to come to campus each afternoon. “Ensuring that any student can access free tutoring is a tried and true way for students to succeed,” Long says.

In particular, math tutoring, or Math Lab as it’s been dubbed, provides both nightly and early morning chances for students to ask questions and get homework help. “We hire four of Harbor’s math teachers to provide this weekly service all year long and it’s very popular amongst our students,” Long says.

The foundation also supplements the school district budget to provide classroom instructional technology as well as offer scholarships for students to travel on educational trips and attend college. And Newport Harbor High’s unique career mentor program is also solely funded by the foundation. Career mentoring was added in 1996 through a state grant and now involves 250 volunteer mentors who offer job shadowing and insights into their occupation. “It is now in its 26th year, offering juniors a chance to ‘test drive’ a career of their choice with a professional in a field of their choice,” Long explains. “… [It provides] a window into the future as well as a reality check on students’ dreams before they go on to make further educational choices.”

math lab_credit Brandon Clay
Tutoring at Math Lab | Photo by Brandon Clay

Long, whose own children graduated from Newport Harbor High, has been the foundation’s executive director for more than two decades, since 1999, after serving as a board member and wanting to become even more involved. Her leadership is complemented by a board of approximately 40 members. With such a wide range of programs, it’s easy to see why so many supporters are needed.

In addition to services mentioned above, the foundation covers the cost of substitute teachers so Harbor’s science faculty can take students on trips as part of the Field Studies Program. “Traveling to natural locations and teaching in the field, students learn about nature and science at Zion National Park, Yosemite [National Park], the California coast and Monterey Bay Aquarium,” Long says, adding that weekend trips to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and San Jacinto Peak are also part of an Outdoor Leadership School.

When it comes to the performing arts, the district pays for teachers and musical instruments for the student orchestra plus the marching and jazz bands. The campus also has a robust program with annual performances in choral music, dance and drama. “Newport Harbor Educational Foundation has augmented the program by purchasing 25 electronic keyboards for our piano students and helps to pay for the expensive royalties and costuming of our dramatic productions,” Long says.

Also supported by the foundation are the International Baccalaureate and Advancement Via Individual Determination programs. The former is offered to juniors and seniors with 18 courses available, focused on critical and “big picture” thinking; if enough points are earned, this can culminate in an International Baccalaureate diploma, recognized worldwide.

Meanwhile, AVID offers an extra elective course during each of the four years of high school. “Designed to give added structure for students to succeed in high school, it teaches Cornell note taking [and] focuses on college readiness, college visits, college applications and scholarships,” Long says, adding that all of Newport Harbor’s senior AVID students have been accepted to four-year universities and attend with multiple scholarships. “… Many of our AVID students are the first in their family to graduate high school and attend college, making Harbor High very proud.”

To support all of these efforts, the foundation relies on volunteers to help with the Newport Harbor Home Tour fundraiser; the next one is planned May 16, 2024. About 200 volunteers are needed for this event alone. In addition, the Anchors Aweigh gala will take place next year in February and donated items are needed for the online auction. Memorial bricks are also sold and placed under the flagpole by the bell tower on campus; the deadline to order is April 1 each year with installation by graduation in June. Financial donations and gifts of stock are graciously accepted by the foundation to help invest in Newport’s next generation.

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