President/CEO, OneFuture Coachella Valley
Vice president, CSUSB Palm Desert Campus Advancement Board
The value of education is obvious to Sheila Thornton, one of nine kids, all first-generation college students. Now, as vice president of the CSUSB Palm Desert Campus Advancement Board, she works to ensure all that students have access to that opportunity.
“The Advancement Board is a cross-section of leaders committed to giving Coachella Valley students the chance to get a degree locally and, as importantly, contribute their talent and leadership to building the future workforce, regional culture, and economy,” she says.
Access to college near home is vital because many of the valley’s 71,000 students are unable to leave the area because of financial or personal obstacles. The Palm Desert Campus has been offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the Coachella Valley since 1986, and now offers a doctorate degree in educational leadership as well.
“This is the beginning of our ability to solve the problem long-term,” Thornton says. “For every 1,000 students in the Coachella Valley who start ninth grade, 111 complete a bachelor’s degree. The Palm Desert Campus is a much-needed resource if we are going to get anywhere near closing that gap.”
Thornton also runs OneFuture Coachella Valley, which brings together education, nonprofits, and employers to boost graduation rates, college financial aid applications, and in-school career academies. The organization has awarded $13.9 million in college scholarships since 2009.
Thornton, a mother of four daughters who relocated from L.A. in 2001, says, “Every student deserves the opportunity to contribute their gift to the world.”
VIDEO: Sheila Thornton speaks about building the future workforce of the Coachella Valley.