REACH, which stands for Resilience, Education, Adventure, Community, and Health, works to empower students for lives of purposeful action, continuous learning, and the courageous pursuit of opportunity.

The program welcomes each new group of students with a 25-day wilderness expedition during the summer between their sophomore and junior year. Over the following four years, students participate in additional outdoor adventures, but also college tours, first aid training, food literacy and cooking programs, financial training, leadership exercises, and other real-life skill-building activities.

As Wilderness First-Responder and REACH Program Manager Ken Gates sees it, “REACH empowers our students by challenging them – and teaching them – to take more control of their own future”

The program adds 40 new students each year, so Program Manager Julissa Garcia is visiting high schools in Santa Barbara County to present the program and answer questions for counselors, teachers, and students. She emphasizes the program’s learn-by-doing design, offering “four years of real-world skills, from first aid to finance, cooking to camping.”

Program Director Laurel Anderson adds, “ The benefits gained through these activities – non-academic skills like perseverance and self-control – are proven to be more essential to success than many of the things we traditionally measure, like IQ and socio-economic standing.”

Orfalea Foundation Communications Manager Dean Zatkowsky notes that the program is unusual in its long-term approach, which is essential to REACH’s mission. “The USA has the highest college dropout rate in the industrialized world. Good grades can get you TO college, but it takes something else to get you THROUGH college. REACH helps students develop the grit and self-confidence to make and keep commitments to themselves and others.”

Applications for the 2013 class are due at the Orfalea Foundation offices by January 18, 2013. Students must reside in Santa Barbara County, be willing to embrace opportunities, and demonstrate financial need. The application and more information on the REACH program can be found at Teachers and counselors who would like to schedule a presentation may contact Julissa Garcia at 805-565-7550 x302.

About the Orfalea Foundation: Devoted to “Strengthening Communities by Empowering Individuals,” the Orfalea Foundation works on diverse initiatives in a singularly entrepreneurial way. With a bias for action, the foundation’s invests in proven performers and homegrown initiatives focused on community disaster preparedness and recovery, school food reform, early childhood education, youth development, and lifelong education. Learn more at


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