College of the Canyons has launched the Resources for Individual Success in Education project, dubbed RISE, to help improve access to higher education for current and former foster or homeless youth.
Launched this fall semester, the program’s mission is to increase retention, graduation and transfer rates, as well as promote student learning and development.
“Our goal is to not only help foster youth and homeless students, but to also empower them throughout college, when they need the most support,” said Dora Lozano, the college’s RISE Project counselor.
The RISE Project will provide participating students with counseling, priority registration, progress monitoring and assistance with the purchase of textbooks, meals and transportation.
In addition, RISE Project students will have access to on-campus shower facilities, personal care supplies, workshops, snacks and resource referrals.
Students who wish to participate in the RISE Project must meet with Lozano in order to identify their specific needs.
To qualify for the RISE Project, the student must be between the ages of 16 and 24 and be enrolled in at least three units of college coursework at COC. In addition, documentation is required to receive RISE services as either a current/former foster or homeless youth.
A survey conducted by the Wisconsin Hope Lab and the Association of Community College Trustees, a nonprofit group representing college district board members, revealed that 30 percent of former foster youth surveyed were homeless while attending community college.
The RISE Project was created in response to the passing of Assembly Bill 801, the Success for Homeless Youth in Higher Education Act. Signed by Governor Brown in 2016, the bill requires that each California State University and community college district provide resources to foster youth and homeless students.
“We hope this program will make it easier for students to come forward and ask for help,” said Lozano. “We are especially grateful for the support of various local organizations who wish to lend a helping hand to RISE Project students.”
The Assistance League of Santa Clarita donated 20 shower bags to the RISE Project. The shower bags contain flip flops, wash cloths, body wash, shampoo, brush, lock, toothpaste, and a toothbrush.
Fostering Youth Independence (FYI), a non-profit in Santa Clarita, has accepted several RISE Project foster youths as participants in their mentee program. FYI provides foster youth with a caring adult called an “ally” who works directly with them to make sure they obtain the resources and encouragement they need as they complete their education.
On August 17, FYI held a Back to School Bash that allowed RISE Project students to meet their allies and other foster youth, as well as fill new backpacks with a wide variety of school supplies.
For more information about the College of the Canyons RISE Project, please visit the program’s web page.