Carnegie’s prestigious grant awarded to OneFuture Coachella Valley

April 12, 2024 – Theresa Maggio | Special to The Desert Sun

Since 2009, more than 45 organizations have partnered with OneFuture to fund $17 million in scholarships to more than 3,000 students. Romulo Mena/Special to The Desert Sun

OneFuture Coachella Valley has earned national recognition from the esteemed Carnegie Corporation of New York, being named one of 10 Exemplars in Education and receiving a Profiles in Collective Leadership Grant.

Carnegie celebrated OneFuture for its innovative initiatives that foster student education, empowerment and local partner engagement through its Regional Plan for College and Career Success. The $200,000 grant applauds the collaborative efforts of local government, education, nonprofit, business and health care professionals to create career opportunities for youth while promoting civic participation.

By 2031, 72% of today’s jobs will require postsecondary education or training, yet more than 80% of valley students face significant education barriers — including poverty, underrepresentation and first-generation challenges. OneFuture has been a pivotal force. Supporting nearly 8,000 K-12 students across 30 career academies in all three educational districts, OneFuture has facilitated industrywide accessibility to education, believing it to be the gateway to economic mobility.

Sheila Thornton, president and CEO of OneFuture says: “We’ve awarded more than $17 million in scholarships to more than 3,000 students. We are excited with the 265 undergraduate students who have secured full-time, paid health care summer internships. I am so proud of our team’s efforts along with the cross section of partners who have stepped beyond their own agenda to support our students so we could do bigger things together than any one of us could do alone.”

Student success stories further underscore the organization’s impact. For example, OneFuture scholar Cristal Salcido, pursuing her doctorate at Bastyr University, aims to provide naturopathic medical services to underserved communities upon her return to the valley. Another scholar, Stephanie Monroy, aspires to become a foster and homeless youth counselor, driven by her desire to guide students through trauma and towards fulfilling career paths.

OneFuture Scholar Guadalupe Arreola is studying for her Masters of Science at Southern California University of Health Science to become a physician’s assistant. Romulo Mena/Special to The Desert Sun

“Today’s students face tremendous challenges,” says Kelly May-Vollmar, DSUSD superintendent of schools. “Some are raising their siblings; others struggle with mental wellness. OneFuture’s mentors and services makes all the difference in their ability to cope, navigate and thrive.”

From an employer’s standpoint, Ken Wheat, executive VP and COO of Eisenhower Health believes, “The smartest strategy is to cultivate talent from within our valley. It’s crucial for our community leaders to collaborate and grow our talent pipeline, providing our students with an accessible and supportive career path to excel in our future workforce. No one does it like OneFuture.”

“We launched Profiles based on our belief that communities across the country are working to create opportunities for economic and social mobility as well as civic engagement irrespective of red, blue or purple politics — and we want to listen and learn from them,” says LaVerne Evans Srinivasan, vice president of the Carnegie Corporation’s National Program and program director of education. “OneFuture is a leading example of this type of collaborative work on the local level, and our hope is that by spotlighting and funding their efforts, we can ultimately influence the field to work in new and collective ways that also mitigate the impact of polarization.”

OneFuture has produced significant results, with local students earning 1,165 bachelor’s degrees, 488 associate degrees, 171 master’s degrees, 17 doctoral degrees and 87 certificates. Their Battle of the High School program has achieved a 75% FAFSA completion rate, granting students access to $300 million in financial aid. The investment of $2,000 per college student per year with holistic support services has resulted in an impressive 92% second-year retention rate.

Aligned with OneFuture’s mission, the Carnegie Corporation aims to help young people from all backgrounds move from the classroom to meaningful careers. In doing so, OneFuture has demonstrated that it takes a united community and a steadfast regional commitment to shape the future of the Coachella Valley. By providing opportunities for educationally and economically disadvantaged youth, OneFuture is not just building a high-quality workforce; it is empowering students to prepare for and seize the jobs of today and tomorrow.

To learn more or make a donation, call (760) 625-0422 or visit