ANTHONY & JEANNE PRITZKER FAMILY FOUNDATION
AWARDS CHALLENGE GRANT FOR THE
LOS ANGELES CITY COLLEGE GUARDIAN SCHOLARS PROGRAM
The Anthony & Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation has awarded the Los Angeles City College Foundation (LACCF) with a $60,000 challenge grant for the Los Angeles City College (LACC) Guardian Scholars (GS) Program. This challenge grant is a dollar-for-dollar match to support this critically important program for the 2012-13 academic year. The GS Program at LACC provides current and former foster youth ages 16 to 24, a path to make a successful transition to adulthood through continuity, consistency and a sense of belonging in an academic setting.
This comprehensive program supports foster youth as they create and pursue their educational/vocational goals. The objective of the GS program is to provide a seamless integration of student support services for foster youth who want to participate. The GS staff has the primary function of supporting and assuring that each foster youth student receives guidance and mentoring throughout his or her entire college career.
The GS Program was launched successfully at LACC in the fall semester of the 2009-2010 academic year. The GS program staff, and LACC staff who are specially trained foster youth liaisons, are placed at all key entry points on campus to ensure the provision of support services by those knowledgeable with regard to foster care issues. The GS staff and liaisons, together with more than 35 community partners, have created a network of advocates that can provide direct assistance to these students in housing, childcare, life skills training, health care, transportation and employment services.
Foundations, corporations and individuals are being asked to participate in this dollar-for-dollar match to raise $60,000 by December 31, 2012. We hope that you will join us in our efforts to support foster youth who are in school because they seek a better and more stable future for themselves. You can help make their dreams become a reality. Please click on this link to make an online donation to Guardian Scholars/Pritzker Challenge Grant and specify "Pritzker Challenge Grant".
The Case for Support
Higher education has long been recognized as the key to success in the workplace and to increased earning potential. For the majority of young people caught in the generational cycle of poverty and underemployment, a college education represents the only viable means of escape from lives of marginal employment and continual economic crisis. Against the backdrop of an economy under stress and widespread tuition increases, the dream of higher education is fast receding for most children of low-to-middle-income families—and has become all but impossible for many foster youth. In Los Angeles, these are the students for whom Los Angeles City College offers the best (often the only) option for college.
In keeping with its community educational mission, LACC serves as both an entry portal to four-year collegiate institutions and as a vital career training resource. Among the College's predominantly "working poor" student population of 18,000, more than half are dependent upon some form of financial aid. That need is increasing dramatically as economic conditions stagnate and unemployed and under-employed individuals—many of them, heads-of-household—seek training (or re-training) for new careers. For these students, most juggling home, school and work responsibilities, attendance at Los Angeles City College is seen as a survival strategy, their best hope for financial stability for themselves and their families. For Guardian Scholars, attending LACC provides a gateway to a better life.
With approximately 1,800 foster youth emancipating from the Los Angeles County's foster care system each year, LACC, with its easily accessible campus and metro stop, is an ideal locale for youth to pursue their educational/vocational aspirations because numerous educational and vocational programs are available. The campus' close proximity to public transportation is important, because transportation has been identified by former foster youth as a barrier to accessing post-secondary education.
Many youth are unprepared by the foster care system for the challenges that adulthood, and sometimes early parenthood, will bring their way. Numerous studies have demonstrated that children and youth in foster care confront significant obstacles along their journey to adulthood, including poverty, interrupted schooling, trauma, family chaos and residential mobility.
Many experts have described this combination of circumstances as a "perfect storm" that results in school failure. Thus, foster youth are twice as likely as the general student population to leave school without a diploma and often face bleak life prospects after "aging out" of the foster care and school systems. The reality is that "the majority of former foster youth fail to achieve self-sufficiency," as 65% of foster youth do not have a place to live upon emancipating, 51% are unemployed, and "only 20% of those who complete high school attempt to pursue postsecondary education, compared with 60% of their peers."
This research also shows that foster youth are more than likely to live below the poverty level, have trouble paying bills and other expenses, and lack the ability to pay for any additional vocational training or college education. These problems are complicated further by the fact that the few services foster youth do receive "end abruptly as they transition to adulthood, even though the need for them continues."
The economic and educational challenges emancipated foster youth face are daunting, but studies also show that when these young people have access to financial aid and life skills courses, receive appropriate counseling and enroll in courses at their skill level, participate in career pathway programs and find adequate housing, childcare and transportation, they can and do succeed in college. Again, research shows that even though independence is the appropriate goal, the modern transition to adulthood is long and complex, and emancipating foster youth benefit from assuming responsibility gradually, while receiving continued guidance from concerned adults. As a result, LACC developed the Guardian Scholars Program to provide emancipated foster youth with the seamless system of guidance, mentoring, life skills, tutoring, advocacy, and support services they need to complete their educational and vocational goals successfully.
Finally, the first cohort of 35 foster students, which began in the 2009-2010 academic year, have a 71% retention rate; 70% have maintained a GPA of 2.0 or better and 20% have maintained a GPA of 3.0 or better. This first cohort also has begun transferring to four-year institutions. Four students have been accepted to the following institutions: UCLA (full scholarship), University of San Francisco (full scholarship), Humboldt State and Whittier College. Two students transferred in 2011, one to the University of North Carolina and another to CSULA. Four students have been accepted to various schools for spring 2013.
Originally, the Guardian Scholars Program was to be funded by LACC at the end of a three-year grant. However, the state budget crisis has made this impossible—the school is scrambling for funds just to provide basic support to the academic departments and cannot fund this successful and critically important program. LACCF is seeking contributions actively from foundations, corporations and individuals not only to meet the dollar-for-dollar challenge grant from the Anthony & Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation, but to meet the needs of the more than 100 students who now participate.
Your support for Guardian Scholars is appreciated deeply and will make a lasting difference in their lives.