April 15, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

SMC Receives Grant to Expand Access to Critical Support Services for Foster Youth

New NextUp program will provide academic & comprehensive support, plus direct financial aid to foster youth enrolled at SMC

Santa Monica College (SMC) has been awarded a $942,225 grant from California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office to boost access to essential academic and wraparound services for former and current foster youth. They will launch a new, continuous, extensive NextUp Program under the umbrella of SMC’s EOPS/CARE Program—which helps students facing educational and socioeconomic obstacles—to achieve this.

The Budget Act of 2022-23 increases funding for the NextUp Program (formerly Cooperating Agencies Foster Youth Educational Support Program) by $30 million for California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office to distribute among community colleges around the state in accordance with a set funding formula. Thanks to this grant, SMC will set up a NextUp Program to provide academic, transfer and financial aid counseling; academic tutoring; mental health support; case management referrals to college/community programs; and direct financial aid to current/former foster youth. 

“National research shows that while a postsecondary credential can greatly enhance the likelihood of foster youth making more successful transitions and increase their chances for personal fulfillment, the obstacles and barriers they face are immense,” said SMC Superintendent/President Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery. “This is why the efforts of the college’s Guardian Scholars program over the past several years have been critical in leaving no stone unturned in ensuring our former/current foster youth students have the supportive family they deserve, here at SMC. We are thrilled that this new NextUp Program will help extend this legacy of care to these deserving students!”

The purpose is to raise the number of current and former foster youth enrolling, persisting, and completing their educational goal at the college.

Dr. Debra Joseph Locke, who supervises SMC’s EOPS/CARE and coordinates the Guardian Scholars program for current and former foster youth, said that the new NextUp program would be “a huge boost” to the college’s foster youth student population. 

“To not have to worry about textbooks, food, transportation, housing etc., frees a student to fully focus on classes and the future,” Locke said. “This is a resilient student body that truly deserves the additional support, increased programming and direct aid that will now be available to help them to grow, flourish and succeed at SMC and beyond.

SMC will keep its Guardian Scholars program running to support foster youth students who don’t qualify for NextUp. NextUp will be combined with Guardian Scholars and other student support services on campus to make sure all students get equitable services and a sense of belonging. Guardian Scholars offer academic, career and transfer counseling; priority enrollment; meal and transport assistance; mental health therapy; student success workshops, and more.

Established in Fall 2013, SMC’s Guardian Scholars program was created through a three-year grant from the Angell Foundation and further supported by grants from the S. Mark Taper Foundation, The Whittier Trust, Stuart Foundation, Attias Family Foundation, Sidney Stern Memorial Trust, California Community Foundation, The Mark Hughes Foundation and Providence/St. John’s Health Center. Since 2015, 58 Guardian Scholars have graduated from Santa Monica College or transferred to universities such as UCLA, USC, UC Irvine, San Diego State, Cal State Long Beach, UC Berkeley and FIDM among others. To date the program has served around 720 former or current foster youth.

For more information about NextUp statewide, visit nextup.cccco.edu. For more information on SMC’s Guardian Scholars, and the new NextUp program, email Locke_Debra@smc.edu.

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