In California, the housing market has skyrocketed in price. A month’s rent for a small apartment can be around 1,400 dollars. This is especially problematic for Californa’s foster youth as they prepare to leave the system and attend college. Since foster youth don’t have support from families they have to come up with all their expenses on their own. This led to the decision: work to support the cost of living or go to college and struggle to scrape by. Needless to say, many foster youths dropped out of their colleges in order to work to get rent money making their demographic graduation rate a meager eight percent.

As former foster youths themselves, Steven Ambrocio and Gabriela Vaquerano have seen many community colleges attempt to offer aid like free textbooks but ultimately they credit a program called NextUp. This program receives an annual 20 million dollars per year and its main goal is to provide housing for former foster youths. They also pay utility bills to free up more money for the students. Since 2014 when the program was created by the state legislature it has helped over 3,500 students get their degrees per year.

Some critique this solution citing that federal money is better used elsewhere like early education where children don’t have a choice and that former foster youths should wait to go to college until they have enough money to support themselves. However, they lack the understanding that foster youths have never had strong family support or belonging. For many foster youths, college is the first time in their lives where they have a chance at community and self-discovery all working towards finding their ultimate purpose in life. For many students, if programs like NextUp don’t exist they will end up homeless without the ability to positively impact society and pay it forward with a meaningful career.

Overall I believe NextUp is an amazing program that not only offers financial aid but the support that these former foster youths need to be successful in the future and it enables them to make each community a better place by being able to work a meaningful job, provide for themselves in the future, and help current foster youth.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 The housing problem for college-age foster youths. by Emmy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Youth Voices is an open publishing platform for youth. The site is organized by teachers with support from the National Writing Project. Opinions expressed by writers are their own.

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