Financial literacy

OC United Way launches permanent financial literacy program at RH Dana

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By Breeana Greenberg

A financial literacy pilot program to teach families at RH Dana Elementary School personal financial management and budgeting has been deemed a success and will now be offered on a permanent basis, Orange County United Way announced this week.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, when many service industry workers were hardest hit, OC United Way launched the pilot program through a partnership with the City of Dana Point and the Unified School District of Capistrano in 2021 with the intention of helping 100 Families in Southern Orange County.

“We knew there was a need across the county and we do a lot of programs across Orange County, but there hadn’t been a financial wellness program like this in the county. South,” said Sue Parks, president and CEO of OC United Way.

“We were thrilled with the great team from the Town of Dana Point, Capistrano School District, Principal, Kristen Nelson, RH Dana,” she added. “It was just a perfect place to do this Hub.”

Over the past year, the association has achieved its goal. Of the 100 families who participated in the program, 28 were connected to local services to continue receiving support after completing the program and 54 families were loaned laptops so they have a means of manage their budget.

“It was really, really a rewarding program. What’s really cool is that people are referring their friends and families,” Parks said. “So we decided it was a full-fledged program, the pilot was so successful, so we started this year with the first cohort (group). (The program) runs quarterly and this first cohort filled up very quickly.

RH Dana’s Literacy Pilot Program is part of OC United Way’s SparkPoint OC Financial Empowerment Program, which began in 2012 and aims to help Orange County families gain financial independence by providing education finance and individual coaching.

The first batch of families to participate in the local program began in early January and continued through mid-March. The second cohort runs from late March to mid-June and the next cohort will run from mid-June to August.

United Way aims to have 25 people per cohort, but no more than 30. The program is open to families with children from RH Dana or Palisades elementary schools and families who live in South Orange County.

Families participating in the program earn an average income of just over $30,000 per year. The financial literacy program requires access to a computer and internet connection, but a limited number of laptops will be available for loan.

Families participating in the program receive a coach whom they can meet individually. At the start of the term, families will set a schedule with their coach and complete an evaluation to ensure the program is helping the family meet their goals based on their needs. Families will also have access to a series of educational workshops.

“It’s a really wonderful opportunity for all of us who are part of South County to come together and help families,” Parks said. “It is a pleasure to work with the school, the Town of Dana Point, the Capistrano School District and so many other caring people. We are simply grateful for all the support.

For those interested in learning more about the financial literacy program, an information session will be held on June 7 from 11:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. For more information, contact Marcela Ticas at or call 949.263.6178.

Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a Bachelor of Arts in English. Prior to joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance journalist for the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at

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