For many foster youth, entering college is a major accomplishment in itself. But it can be difficult adjusting to a new environment and knowing what to do next.
This rang true for John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) Youth Advocate Patrick Gem Gabbett, who was a student at Sacramento City College before transferring to San Francisco State. As a young person who was in foster care and disabled, he was unsure if he would be able to keep up in school. Thankfully, a specialized program for foster youth was available to help Patrick make this transition successful: NextUp.
JBAY advocated for the creation of NextUp in 2016. The program sets up California students with foster care experience for success as they navigate community college.
“They had my back through everything,” said Patrick. “I was guided through the process of setting up appointments with disability services, picking classes, paying for books, and much more. They even helped me through the process of academic renewal after I had to drop out of several semesters due to health issues.”
JBAY has worked to expand access to NextUp and in the 2022-23 state budget, successfully advocated for a statewide expansion to all 116 community colleges. At every campus, foster youth will have access to specialized academic, financial and emotional support.
In January, 60 colleges received NextUp funds for the first time. To help guide them in the implementation process, JBAY surveyed and interviewed existing NextUp programs and developed a toolkit, which includes an in-depth publication and a companion video featuring a panel of four college representatives from campuses with exceptional NextUp programs.
With this resource, JBAY hopes to inspire colleges to make well-informed, student-centered decisions that then inspire students to overcome adversity and strive for success.
According to JBAY’s Higher Education Program Manager Linda Ramos, “NextUp not only helps support students to reach their academic goals, but also provides a caring community and a way to create meaningful connections. Many students see NextUp as their home on campus and a safe place for them to ask questions and be themselves.”
Patrick said, “NextUp helped make my success in college possible by providing me with funds, resources, and counseling that I would otherwise not have access to. It also enriched my experience by connecting me with a network of peers with similar experiences.”
As a result of NextUp’s expansion, 7,600 more foster youth will have the tools they need to achieve their college and career goals.