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SAUSD Awarded $2.5 Million to Become the Newest XQ Cohort High School

Exciting things are happening at Century High School! XQ Institute will award $2.5 million dollars over the next five years to SAUSD to create a Circulos High School, a small learning community within a high school, to engage students, provide them with community-based projects, and learning seminars that will successfully prepare them for an enriching life after graduating from high school. Century High School will be a part of this innovative and visionary proposal. The school will join the cohort of XQ schools as a key driver for change, making high school more relevant, engaging and effective for every student, everywhere.


Círculos’ aim is not just to shift how we think about high school, but to create a shift in how communities think about their commitment to young people. Each day students, mentors and sponsoring organizations will participate in a circle discussion, the signature pedagogy of the school, that will serve as the centerpiece for critical reading and academic discourse. The Círculos approach acknowledges that students, particularly those burdened by poverty and inequitable access, need to build social capital even as they develop deep academic skills and knowledge. To achieve that, Círculos students will have broad opportunities for enrichment and access to a network of local allies and advocates that they will work with side-by-side.


“We appreciate the investment that the XQ Institute is making in the development of our students and are thrilled that it enables us to further our guiding principles of classroom, community, and connectedness,” said Stefanie Phillips, Ed.D. Superintendent of Santa Ana Unified School District. “The Santa Ana Unified School District places great value on connecting the entire community to support our core business of providing a high quality education for our students in and out of the classroom, and this grant will allow us to do that on a daily basis.”


Elements of the Círculos design will be piloted this year within three high schools in Santa Ana and include thoughtfully integrated technology, community-based projects, and learning seminars. A powerful data dashboard and digital badging system will bring everything together to empower students, teachers and families with detailed information about their learning journey.


For additional information about XQ Institute or Círculos High School, contact Howli Pfeiffer at or (415) 363-0415 and Deidra Powell at Deidra.powell@SAUSD.US or (714) 673-4995.


About XQ Institute:

XQ inspires communities to help reshape high school, so it prepares every student for success in college, career, and life. XQ was co-founded by CEO Russlynn Ali, former Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights under President Barack Obama, and board chair Laurene Powell Jobs, president of Emerson Collective. Board members include Yo-Yo Ma, Marc Ecko, Geoffrey Canada, Michael Klein and Leon Wieseltier.  


XQ: The Super School Project launched in September 2015 as an open call to rethink and design the next American high school. Thousands of school builders, and tens of thousands of supporters from towns and cities across all 50 states united to take on this important work. Nearly 4,000 communities representing nearly 10,000 school builders, students, teachers, parents, community leaders and many more came together to conceptualize innovative models for 21st century learning. To date, XQ has pledged $115m to a growing number of the most promising ideas, actively supporting these teams on their journeys to become Super Schools. For more information visit


About Círculos High School
The Santa Ana Unified School District is the seventh largest school district in California and the largest in Orange County. The district serves the educational needs of approximately 50,000 students in prekindergarten through twelfth grade. Ninety-six percent of SAUSD students are Latino.
Approximately 60 percent of students are English learners, the majority of whom speak Spanish. About 91 percent of students are designated as coming from low-income families.


Santa Ana Unified is home to 37 elementary schools, nine intermediate schools, seven high
schools, three alternative schools, and a child-development center. The district boasts many indicators of excellence, including having Godinez Fundamental High School, Middle College High School, Saddleback High School, and Segerstrom High School ranked among the best high schools in the country by US News and World Report in 2017.