Focus on Leadership

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Sandi Jackson

Sandi Jackson considers getting her three children successfully through school with a good education as one of her biggest challenges as a parent. Being acutely aware of children's distinct learning styles, strengths, weaknesses, and needs for enrichment, she and her family ended up selecting different educational situations for all three children. As a reuslt, her children almost never attended the same schools as their siblings. However, she considers this a minor inconvenience and effort - especially compared to the quest for education many disadvantaged and foster youth have, both in Orange County and nationwide.

To illustrate her point, Sandi quotes the public statistics:

There were over 38,900 reported cases of child abuse, neglect or abandonment in Orange County last fiscal year. High school for foster youth is particularly challenging, many have an average of seven placements; 46% will not graduate; and only about 15% will gain entrance to college; less than 2% will graduate with a college degree. Yearly over 200 foster care teens emancipate or "age out" of the dependency system at age 18. Without guidance, support and resources these young adults can easily become homeless, will rely on public assistance, become unwed parents or incarcerated.

Considering the struggles and efforts her family put into the educational process, Sandi began to wonder if these children even have a chance in the educational system and she began to look for people and organizations that were working on solutions to offer hope, stability, and guidance to this underserved population and found the Orangewood Children's Foundation.

Sandi has a professional background both in the medical field and in Interior Design. She attended Colorado State University and Stanford University obtaining a degree in Occupational Therapy and Psychology. Her specialization was in pediatric neurology and learning disabilities in children. After internships in that field she worked at USC Medical Center and the Ayres Clinic at USC doing research, evaluation, and treatment in the field of sensory integration.

Obtaining an understanding of the process of "taking in," "sorting out," and connecting information from the world around us is essential to understanding the unique learning process for each individual.

Connecting these interests into a cause, Sandi has been spearheading a 5 year project for the Orangewood Children's Foundation with Susan Samueli and UCI to develop a residential and day Academy High School to specifically meet the special needs of underserved students and foster youth in Orange County. Based on several successful models and personalized, cutting edge  educational trends, this Academy will offer stability and an opportunity to develop healthy relationships, give a sense of belonging, nurture a positive belief in the future, and provide a place to call home to many that have never had these things in their lives. This Academy will act as s springboard to a college or trade school education. (The Orangewood Children's Foundation currently provides higher education scholarships of almost $1,000,000 a year to 322 former foster youth, currently attending 74 colleges in 14 states.)

Sandi has been a community advocate all her life and supports women's empowerment issues and worldwide humanitarian issues. She has chaired the Memorial Medical Center Foundation Board; is involved with the American Cancer Society, the Woman's Philanthropy Fund, the Angels of the Arts, and Chapman University; and serves on the Chair's Advisory Board of the Department of Education at UCI.

Sandi is married to Dr. Douglas Jackson, an orthopedic surgeon, and is very proud of her children whom she says are all making major contributions in giving back to society; one is a assistant professor at UCI, one teaches in Watts and is getting her MA in Public Administration, and one  works for the Orangewood Children's Foundation. Sandi enjoys her family, traveling, reading, photography, hiking, and her Interior Design business.