Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The San Diego College of Continuing Education earned more than $2.7 million in grants and awards to expand a program for transition-age foster youth, it was announced Friday.

The funds are earmarked for SDCCE’s Gateway to College and Career program, which “offers paid internships, connections to industry, assistance in securing a high school diploma or equivalency, and a college and career readiness course aimed at helping youth find viable pathways to a productive future,” according to the college.

“Transition-age foster youth are the San Diego College of Continuing Education’s most vulnerable students, and these funds will be vital in us reaching our goal of supporting this population with multiple services that will lead to a stable future and economic mobility,” SDCCE President Tina M. King said in a statement.

The program is receiving a $1 million award from the U.S. Department of Labor Community Project Funding — recommended by Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego. Additionally, SDCCE will receive a collaborative grant of $1.75 million this spring to connect San Diego-based nonprofit Promises2Kids’ Guardian Scholars program with Gateway to College and Career.

According to a Promises2Kids estimate, there are more than 1,500 young adults who were in the foster care system living in San Diego County. National data found high unemployment rates among transition-age foster youth, and around one-third of former foster youth are or have been homeless after exiting foster care.

Alfredo Chavez Barrios is a Gateway to College and Career alumnus who now serves as a tutor with the program.

“Gateway changed my life after,” he said. “They helped me earn my high school equivalency, provided me with bus passes to make sure I was able to get to school, and covered the cost of taking the equivalency exams.”

The Gateway to College and Career is modeled after a national network. The local program is based at the SDCCE’s Educational Cultural Complex in southeast San Diego. The facility includes offices, classrooms, a computer lab, pantry and diapers for the children of young parents.

“We’re family, and that’s what family does,” said Stephanie Lewis, SDCCE’s dean of career and college transitions. “We want our students to know that we support you, and we will continue to support you until you can support yourself.”

–City News Service