The comprehensive program supports former foster youths in their efforts to gain a college education through financial aid, housing, academic advisement, employment services, career counseling, personal guidance and tutoring, and supplemental support services such as child care, transportation help, books and meal vouchers.
Every year, about 4,000 youths age out of California’s foster-care system upon reaching age 18, and in the past five years, the number of foster children in Santa Barbara County who require these services has increased 81 percent.
This group is particularly vulnerable because many lack a supportive family structure, as almost half of all foster youths live in five homes between ages 14 and 18 and attend at least as many schools during that period.
According to studies released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, less than 2 percent of former foster youth complete college, 65 percent of California’s prison population have spent some time in foster care, and 40 percent of those living in state homeless shelters are former foster youth.
With these staggering statistics in mind, the Guardian Scholars Foster Youth Program at SBCC plays a key role in providing a wide range of educational opportunities for emancipated foster youth, many of whom also struggle with basic reading, writing and mathematics. At SBCC, former foster youth can pursue academic studies according to their skill level, ultimately achieving an associate’s degree and/or transferring to a four-year institution for a bachelor’s degree. These students can also look to SBCC’s career and technical education for certificate programs that will quickly qualify them for employment in rewarding fields.
The ability to move rapidly into careers can be extremely important for students who struggle financially and seek to become self-sufficient.
Through the grant from Southern California Edison, the Guardian Scholars Foster Youth Program will be able to provide up to 85 foster youths attending SBCC with mentorship and tools to become successful members of the community.
— Genesis Lopez is a publicist representing the Foundation for Santa Barbara City College.