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Sierra College supports former foster youth as semester begins

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As the opening of the school year, Sierra College took an extra step to ensure that one group of students gets off to a good start. Sierra College, in partnership with the Sierra College Foundation and numerous community organizations and businesses, provided more than 100 care packs to young people who have “aged” out of the state’s foster care system. The packs are filled with school supplies, computer flash drives, vouchers for books, calculator, hygiene items, quilts and pillow cases. For students who don’t have a laptop, the Foundation is working to provide one. “We are honored to be able to help these deserving students as they return to school without the family support system most of our students have,” said Sonbol Aliabadi, executive director of the Sierra College Foundation. “Since 2007, our community has rallied together to give these students some basic items that better prepare them for college and allow them to devote their attention to their studies.” The college and the foundation hosted a special luncheon earlier this month honoring the former foster youth. Every year in California, an estimated 4,000 foster youth transition from dependents of the foster care system into emancipated adulthood at age 18. Of this, 65 percent emancipate without a place to live, less than 3 percent go to college and 51 percent are unemployed. Between 75 and 100 former foster youth enroll at Sierra College annually. The former foster youth face an extraordinary challenge to not only pay for their basic needs, but to also pay for college tuition, books, parking permit, and school supplies which totals about $2,000 per year. This does not include the additional $3,350 it costs per semester to live in the campus dorms. This year, five dorm rooms have been set aside for use by former foster youth. Two of the rooms were “adopted” by Soroptimist International of Loomis Basin and three by a private anonymous donor. In November 2007, a group of staff and faculty at Sierra College decided to take action on the growing lack of resources for former foster youth. They came together and formed the College Transition Support Team. This volunteer group is a partnership between community foster youth services professionals and Sierra College faculty and staff addressing the needs, concerns and issues that affect the success and retention of former foster youth students attending Sierra College. In the last three years of Sierra College’s effort to assist former foster youth, the results show just how successful this project has been. Sierra has seen a retention rate of about 81 percent of former foster youth who continued their studies from the fall to spring semester. “Thank you for your help! I have been worried and wondered how I would ever make it through college without any help. Now with your generosity and the kindness of your heart, my dream of going to college is a reality,” said Rachel, a former foster youth attending Sierra College. “We are very grateful for the support provided by these community organizations and individual donors,” said Linda Williams, Financial Aid Program Manager at Sierra College. “These young people are facing significant challenges as they move on to college and these donations provide some important support for them.” To offer your support to this program or learn more about the Sierra College Foundation, visit www.sierracollege.edu/ foundation. Contact the foundation at (916) 660-7020 or foundation@sierracollege.edu. ~ Staff report