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 3% of Foster Youth (below one tenth of the proportion of the general population) benefit from a college education, arguably their best ladder out of challenging childhoods to worthwhile adult lives.
First Star created the First Star UCLA Summer Guardian Academy, in full partnership with UCLA, as a first, scalable step to leveling the educational playing field for the Foster Youth of Los Angeles. This program continues at UCLA in 2012 and will be replicated so far on three other university campuses. The Summer Program is also a major first step toward the goal of establishing in parallel year-round, residential facilities comprised of FFA Foster Family units on university campuses for those students who will greatly benefit from a permanent placement over the 4 years of High School.
The Summer Program offers a supportive residential education strategically located on the university campus and delivers the best chance towards a fulfilling future. The First Star Academy gives foster youth the opportunity to rewrite the appalling statistics of their cohort and become exemplary citizens. This creates an entirely new avenue where Foster Youth can build happy and productive lives, based upon excellent secondary education.
Components of the First Star Summer Academy provide a residential environment that includes:
• A 5 1/2 week residential college stay for rising 9th through 12th Grade students, with highly proficient, experienced staff
• A comprehensive introductory college immersion program
• 2-4 undergraduate academic course credits
• Encouragement, motivational training, and comprehensive Life Skills instruction.
• A laptop computer, video camera and full 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 on-campus follow up programs and evaluation to prepare for the following Summer Immersions
• Comprehensive, safe, supervised online group enthusiasm, enablement and assistance.