Programs supporting former foster youth trying to stay on their feet as they transition to adulthood are receiving a significant boost thanks to a $1.4 million grant to the San Diego College of Continuing Education (SDCCE) and nonprofit Promises2Kids that will be celebrated during a June 23 check presentation.
The $1.4 million was directed to SDCCE and Promises2Kids through California State Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), who will be a featured speaker at the June 23 check presentation that is scheduled for 9 a.m. at the SDCCE’s Educational Cultural Complex, 4343 Ocean View Blvd., in the Southeast San Diego community of Mountain View.
The grant will help Promises2Kids’ Guardian Scholars program and SDCCE’s Gateway to College and Career in building a seamless system of support for former foster youth seeking education and careers. Guardian Scholars provides wrap-around services that include individualized case management, one-on-one and group mentoring, and financial assistance to help youth on their journey to independence. SDCCE’s Gateway to College and Career offers paid internships, connections to industry, assistance in securing a high school diploma or equivalency, and a college and career readiness course aimed at helping youth find viable pathways to a productive future.
“The San Diego College of Continuing Education has a nearly 110-year history of providing our most vulnerable populations with the kind of services, support, and instruction that is so critical in creating pathways to a good paying career,” said SDCCE President Tina M. King, Ed.D. “We are deeply appreciative of the efforts from Senator pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins in strengthening the Gateway program and supporting our partnership with Promises2Kids.”
Plans call for 30 youth being served in the first year of the two-year grant and 60 being served in year two.
“Transition-aged youth who have been in the foster system often face an uphill battle in achieving their full potential,” Senator Atkins said. “That’s why I was pleased to secure $1.4 million dollars, allocated by the California Student Aid Commission, for the partnership between Promises2Kids Guardian Scholars and the SDCCE’s Gateway to College and Career. These programs provide vital services to help students succeed academically and prepare for successful and meaningful careers.”
Added Promises2Kids CEO Tonya Torosian: “Promises2Kids is honored to have Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins’ leadership in the education of our foster youth. Her efforts have made this unique partnership possible. Promises2Kids mentorship and case management paired with SDCEE educational support services will ensure that these youth will earn their degrees, something that only 8% of foster youth achieve.”
The state award complements a recent $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Community Project Funding at the recommendation of Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego) for the Gateway program.
The need cannot be overstated. Promises2Kids estimates there are more than 1,500 young adults who were in the foster care system living in San Diego County, and national data shows alarmingly high unemployment rates among transition-age foster youth. Studies show approximately 25% of former foster youth experience homelessness within four years of being emancipated from the foster care system. A USC study found that 36% of former foster youth resorted to couch-surfing to keep a roof over their head.
The SDCCE’s Gateway to College and Career is modeled after a national Gateway to College network. Based at the SDCCE’s Educational Cultural Complex, it is equipped with classrooms, a computer lab, pantry, even diapers for the children of young parents. “We’re family, and that’s what family does,” said Stephanie Lewis, the SDCCE’s Dean of Career and College Transitions.
Frida Martinez is a Gateway alumna who will be speaking at the June 23 news conference. She came to the Gateway program for help in finding work. Now she’s employed as an administrative assistant with the SDCCE Apprenticeship Readiness Program.
“The Gateway program made me realize that there are people out there who cared about what I was going through and cared about my future,” she said. “It was nice to see that I didn’t have to do this by myself.”