The foster care youth population has significantly higher rates of complications surrounding their education. For example, the average reading level of 17-18 year olds in foster care is only equivalent to 7th grade.
Additionally, the percent of foster youth who complete high school by 18 years old is only 50%. This is due in part to the fact that 34% percent of 17-18 year olds in care have experienced over five school changes.
While the lives of foster youth are inherently tumultuous, one thing that has remained a constant in their lives is the dedication of all staff, board members, and volunteers at COMPASS For Youth. One-on-one attention is often missing from many aspects of a foster students life, considering they live in facilities of up to 45 other youth. It is COMPASS’ goal to go the extra distance to ensure foster youth feel supported, accounted for, and listened to in every aspect of their personal and educational goals. A check-in phone call, taking the time to listen to their needs and difficulties, or purchasing a UCLA sweatshirt for a student excited about their future- these are some of the ways our staff attend to not just the student, but the whole person. A staff member from a group home COMPASS services had this to say about one of our mentors:
“Lauren is consistently reliable, available, and invested in our youth. She truly cares and has a strong relationship with each youth she serves. Along with the other staff at COMPASS For Youth, they are consistently a major force in guiding these students on the right path to education. They greet the students with smiles, make tutoring engaging, and treat them with wholehearted respect and kindness.”
Experiences like this are not just random acts of kindness at COMPASS For Youth. They are an expectation of performance, which our staff consistently deliver.
However, a caring and professional staff is just one side of the equation for a successful non-profit. Another critical aspect is ensuring that our staff has access to the best facilities, technology, and equipment with which to provide the best possible service for our youth. Our goal is to be able to provide our community of scholars with the highest level of care. However, we are hampered in our efforts due to financial constraints arising from a lack of funding for these programs from these state-run and private group homes. They struggle to provide basic needs and housing for their youth, and unfortunately do not have a budget for their educational expenses: like tutoring, college applications, or college tours.
While our various funding sources enable us to remain solvent and cover basic operating costs, they are inadequate to make the changes necessary to serve a larger student population and offer more resources, which we strive for. If we do not consistently grow- we run the risk of leaving hundreds of students out of the opportunity to avoid the likelihood of poverty, or homelessness, through higher education.
VISION FOR THE FUTURE
To continue our mission to provide foster youth with support in their personal and education endeavors on the road to success and self-reliance, we have undertaken the Fostering Change Campaign Phase I. We seek the support of individuals, corporations, foundations and service groups for the following Fostering Change Phase I projects:
The COMPASS For Youth Community Center will serve as a hub to train volunteers, manage caseloads, and conduct digital tutoring. The project involves establishing our infrastructure through an office suite lease in Los Angeles. A generous lead gift from an individual donor has enabled us to fund our lease momentarily, but additional funds are needed to secure our facility for the long term.
With 190 students ranging in location from: the Antelope Valley, the San Gabriel Valley, the San Fernando Valley to Riverside, California- having a medium of communication other than in-person meetings is critical to our services. Computer access is necessary in order for the youth to communicate effectively with their caseworkers and tutors.
To facilitate this, COMPASS will establish a Digital Academic Center. Our goal is to allow tutors and caseworkers to digitally teach the SAT and ACT and keep track of student progress via weekly Skype appointments, to allow a constant channel of face-to-face general communication. This project involves acquisition of computers for our facility, as well as securing tablets for each group and foster home for the youth. Funds will be used to buy this technology, as well as fund more tutors to enable us to expand lessons to A-G college prerequisite tutoring for their high school courses.
All of our group home partners offer transitional housing for some of their youth aging out of the system. High School graduates aged 18-24 are provided lodging, given they are enrolled in school or actively working. It is our goal to guide these students through the confusing California Community College System. We simply do not have the staff or resources to serve these students as of yet. Community College transfers to the University of California or Cal State Universities are often our student’s only choice at receiving a university education- because they did not complete the prerequisite courses during high school, or their GPA was too low. Our transitional housing program, Transitional Housing Access, aims to serve this need. With additional support, we can guide hundreds more youth into a university education.
With community support, we can achieve our vision of every foster youth in Southern California enrolling in a university when they age out of care. These gifts are investments in the future of our forgotten children in California, and ensure that COMPASS For Youth continues to provide superior educational services to the youth that need it most.