California Advocates Receive Federal Award for Helping Foster Youth Succeed in College

Foster Youth Education
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson (second from left) presents the Secretary’s Award to California College Pathways. There to receive the award: Yali Lincroft, program officer at the Walter S. Johnson Foundation; Amy Lemley, executive director of John Burton Advocates for Youth; Rhonda Mohr, vice chancellor for student services at California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office; and Gene Cochrane, CEO of the Council on Foundations. Photo by John Burton Advocates for Youth.

California College Pathways, a group of advocates and philanthropists working on improving college access for foster youth, has been awarded the 2018 Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships from the U.S. Department on Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The award is meant to honor and highlight the importance of these cross-sector partnerships in transforming lives for low-income Americans.

“It’s this collaborative approach to service that will lead us to find solutions that help the most vulnerable in our communities,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said.

While most foster youth want to attend college, research suggests that only about 8 percent earn a degree. California College Pathways is working to change that by streamlining foster youths’ transition to and preparation for college, assisting colleges in expanding supports and services for foster youth on campus, and pursuing policy change to enhance college access and outcomes for this population.

“Together, we’re making higher education something that is within reach for every youth in foster care,” said Amy Lemley, executive director for John Burton Advocates for Youth, a nonprofit serving foster youth and one of the groups behind the partnership.

In recent years, efforts from California College Pathways have led to the expansion of California’s Chafee Education and Training Voucher program, a federal-state partnership that awards small grants to current and former foster youths,  as well as the Cal Grant, the state’s largest financial aid program.

This past spring, the partnership launched a contest for counties to help foster youth maximize their access to federal financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Foster students lose out on millions in financial aid that they don’t realize they’re eligible for, according to John Burton Project Manager Debbie Raucher, and filling out a FAFSA is the first step in tapping into that money.

California College Pathways is a collaboration between John Burton, the California Department of Education and the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, along with a number of preeminent California philanthropic foundations focused on child welfare.

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Sara Tiano
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General assignment reporter for The Chronicle of Social Change