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UCLA summer program supports youth in foster care

A dance class is part of the extracurricular offerings at the First Star Academy for foster youth at UCLA. (Photo: Susan Frey)

A dance class is part of the extracurricular offerings at the First Star Academy for foster youth at UCLA. (Photo: Susan Frey)

Instability — multiple homes and multiple schools — is one of the biggest obstacles to academic success for foster children. But about two dozen high school students in foster care in Southern California are benefiting from one constant in their lives: a program each summer at UCLA aimed at keeping them on track academically and preparing them for college.

The First Star Academy is a pilot program for foster youth run by First Star, a national nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on helping abused and neglected children. For the past four years, the First Star Academy has brought the foster students to the UCLA campus each summer and meets with the students one Saturday each month during the school year.

When students in foster care change schools, they often lose credits or miss out on opportunities to take crucial classes. During the First Star summer program, the students make up those course credits as well as credits for classes where they have received low grades. At the same time, they get a taste of college life, obtain help with college admissions, and meet successful adults who were once in foster care. They work in paid internships and learn a variety of life skills, from balancing a checkbook to handling stress through meditation.

This will be the last summer for the 25 students, all from districts in Los Angeles or Riverside counties, who began the program together as incoming 9th graders and will be returning to school in the fall as seniors. The first summer the program included 30 students, but three have dropped out and two are still in the program but couldn’t attend this summer.

Read the full story on EdSource California.

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