First Pilot: First Star UCLA Summer Guardian Academy: Completed, Summer 2011

Foster youth are often denied access to adequate educational and residential programs that meet their unique needs within a supportive environment. The damaging effects of growing up in foster care without those needs met are staggering: high rates of young parenthood, unemployment, homelessness, inadequate health insurance, reliance on public assistance, severe mental illness and incarceration. Foster youth often emerge as young adults from our “system” without possessing the basic skills to survive. Less than 6% of Foster Youth benefit from a college education, arguably their best ladder out of challenging childhoods to worthwhile adult lives.

The University of California, Los Angeles and First Star have created the First Star UCLA Summer Guardian Academy as a first, scalable step to leveling the educational playing field for the Foster Youth of Los Angeles. It is also a major first step toward the goal of establishing the UCLA Bruin Guardian Academy, a year- round, residential prep school at UCLA.

The Summer Program offers a supportive residential education strategically located on the UCLA campus and delivers the best chance towards a fulfilling future. The First Star UCLA Summer Guardian Academy gives foster youth in Los Angeles the opportunity to rewrite the appalling statistics of their cohort and become exemplary citizens. Additional universities across the nation will be adopting this model in the summer of 2012, thus creating an entirely new avenue where Foster Youth can build happy and productive lives, based upon excellent secondary education.

Components of the First Star UCLA Summer Guardian Academy 2011 provide a residential environment that includes:
• A 5 1/2 week residential college stay for rising 9th Grade students, with highly proficient, experienced staff
• A comprehensive introductory college immersion program
• 4 UCLA undergraduate academic course credits
• Encouragement, motivational training, Life Skills instruction.
• A laptop computer, video camera and comprehensive instruction in self-advocacy and expression through the safe and proficient use of these technologies.
• A caring adult network, foster “alumni,” and young adult mentorship
• Superior individualized attention and services
• Integrated, interdisciplinary UCLA campus programs and resources
• Access to selected campus services
• Top quality, healthful food services
• Monthly follow up programs and evaluation to prepare for Summer Immersion 2012

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