The San Diego College of Continuing Education (SDCCE) is being awarded more than $2.7 million to expand a program providing academic support and career training for transition-age foster youth.
Funds will be directed to the SDCCE’s Gateway to College and Career program, which 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.
“Transition-age foster youth are the San Diego College of Continuing Education’s most vulnerable students, and these funds will be vital in us reaching our goal of supporting this population with multiple services that will lead to a stable future and economic mobility,” said SDCCE President Dr. Tina M. King.
Gateway to College and Career is receiving a $1 million award from the U.S. Department of Labor Community Project Funding at the recommendation of Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego). The SDCCE has also been notified that a collaborative grant of $1.75 million to connect San Diego-based nonprofit Promises2Kids’ Guardian Scholars program with Gateway to College and Career will be received this spring.
Promises2Kids estimates there are more than 1,500 young adults who were in the foster care system living in San Diego County. National data shows alarmingly high unemployment rates among transition-age foster youth, and approximately one-third of former foster youth are or have been homeless after exiting foster care.
The SDCCE’s Gateway to College and Career is modeled after a national Gateway to College network. Gateway to College and Career is based at the SDCCE’s Educational Cultural Complex in the heart of the southeastern area of San Diego. Among offices and classrooms are 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.
“We want our students to know that we support you, and we will continue to support you until you can support yourself.”
Alfredo Chavez Barrios is a Gateway to College and Career alumnus who now serves as a tutor with the program. “Gateway changed my life after,” he said. “They helped me earn my high school equivalency, provided me with bus passes to make sure I was able to get to school, and covered the cost of taking the equivalency exams.” Chavez Barrios has since transferred to San Diego City College, where he is studying social work, and has his sights set on later transferring to San Diego State University or California State University, San Marcos.
“Gateway showed me that anything is possible.”
Frida Martinez is another Gateway to College and Career veteran. She came to the program for help in finding work. Now she’s employed as an administrative assistant with the Apprenticeship Readiness Program at the SDCCE.
“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.”
“Sponsored by the San Diego Continuing Education Foundation, we envision empowered young adults able to imagine their possibilities for achieving self-sufficiency and engaging in actions that create emotional, social, and financial sustainability and well-being,” reads the Gateway to College and Career vision statement.