Shelley Westmore Hoss is a strong believer in the power of mentoring.

And Hoss practices what she preaches.

“I will mentor any way I can. Anytime. Anywhere,” Hoss said.

Hoss, who graduated as a Phi Beta Kappa scholar in 1987 from the Graduate School of Management with a master’s degree in business and public administration, has been true to her word, taking every opportunity to mentor young people.

The 37-year-old has devoted the better part of her life to helping people, especially at-risk children. It’s a spirit she was raised with and that continues now in her role as president of the Orange County Community Foundation.

A public charity managing assets of more than $75 million, the foundation serves thousands of people with a common goal: improving the quality of life in Orange County and beyond through philanthropy and community partnerships.

Her aim is to help youngsters see that there’s more to life than what immediately surrounds them as they grow up. “We need to give children something outside of their point of reference,” she said.

Hoss particularly wants to instill the sense of pride and desire among children to get a higher education. “We need to give them a vision of achieving things in their life that they never imagined possible. We have to find out why they aren’t seeing the possibilities of being a bioscientist, or a city council member, or the president of a company, and change it.”

Hoss knew all along she wouldn’t be taking the most common road after getting her master’s degree.

“The program at UCI is so connected with where I ended up. It opened my eyes to a different realm. It solidified my desire to work in a nonprofit.”

For a master’s research project, Hoss wrote about the Orangewood Children’s Foundation which serves abused and neglected children throughout Orange County. Her work helped her land an internship there in 1987 as a foundation program specialist. Eventually she rose to associate executive director overseeing a budget of $1.4 million.

In 1996 she left to become chief executive officer of Girls Incorporated of Orange County. A non-profit after-school program that provides educational seminars to promote social values and life skills, Girls Inc. acts as an advocate on behalf of girls ages 5-18.

Under Hoss’s leadership, Girls Inc. developed numerous partnerships with UCI to expose girls to the opportunities a university affords. She arranged for the youngsters to visit the UCI campus and to take part in the renowned ArtsBridge program to learn about the arts.

Leading the Orange County Community Foundation since May 2000, Hoss continues to work closely with UCI. She partners with the campus to raise money for the Orange County Hispanic Education Endowment Fund, which provides scholarships for Hispanic youth.

She employs a UCI student as an intern through the Sage Scholar program and Hoss works closely with corporations, individuals and benefactors to see the range of options for their philanthropy—including the importance of higher education.

“People can make a difference by donating their skills, their leadership, their business expertise. Together we can create new partnerships, we can create a new playing field for giving,” Hoss said.

“Friends ask me, how can you be so happy? I tell them that I’m getting to do what I’ve always dreamed of. I’m getting a chance to make a difference.”