Senate President pro-Tempore Toni G. Atkins will speak Friday during a presentation of a $1.4 million grant to San Diego College of Continuing Education and nonprofit Promises2Kids to help former foster youth as they transition to adulthood.

The grant will help Promises2Kids’ Guardian Scholars program and SDCCE’s Gateway to College and Career in “building a seamless system of support for former foster youth seeking education and careers,” a statement from the organizations read.

Guardian Scholars provides wrap-around services that include individualized case management, one-on-one and group mentoring, and financial assistance. SDCCE’s Gateway to College and Career 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.

“Transition-aged youth who have been in the foster system often face an uphill battle in achieving their full potential,” Atkins said. “These programs provide vital services to help students succeed academically and prepare for successful and meaningful careers.”

The grant plans call for 30 youth being served in the first year of the two-year grant and 60 being served in year two.

The state award complements a recent $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Community Project Funding at the recommendation of Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, for the Gateway program.

Promises2Kids estimates there are more than 1,500 young adults who were in the foster care system living in San Diego County, and national data shows “alarmingly high unemployment rates among transition-age foster youth,” a nonprofit statement reads.

“Promises2Kids mentorship and case management paired with SDCEE educational support services will ensure that these youth will earn their degrees, something that only 8% of foster youth achieve,” said Promises2Kids CEO Tonya Torosian.

The SDCCE’s Gateway to College and Career is modeled after a national Gateway to College network. Based at the SDCCE’s Educational Cultural Complex, it is equipped with classrooms, a computer lab, pantry and diapers for the children of young parents.

Frida Martinez is a Gateway alumna who will be speaking at the Friday news conference. She came to the Gateway program for help in finding work. Now she’s employed as an administrative assistant with the SDCCE Apprenticeship Readiness Program.

“The Gateway program made me realize that there are people out there who cared about what I was going through and cared about my future,” she said. “It was nice to see that I didn’t have to do this by myself.”

–City News Service