From foster care to college

Children who grow up in foster care often drop out of high school; few earn a college degree. In the Los Angeles area, five school districts are trying to support the academic success of foster children, reports Education Week.

The Education Pilot Program, which includes tutors and mentors, won a high rating in the federal Investing in Innovation, or i3, competition.

Sarah Mitchell, an 18-year-old who has been part of the foster system since age 5, said she was starting to get lost before entering the program in Pomona.

. . . She started to fall behind in sophomore year, and fell further behind after transferring to Pomona High School and missing the first two weeks of junior year.

Ms. Mitchell said she focused less on grades than on fitting in as a new student until Rocio Angeles-De Loera, the district social worker assigned to her high school, showed up at her house.

“Rocio came over to my house, and we went over a goal sheet of everything I wanted to achieve, both long-term goals and short-term goals, and how I could maintain my focus on graduating,” she said. “That was when I thought, ‘OK, I want to go to college,’ and I started buckling down and doing the right thing. She was always pushing me.”

Mitchell was able to make up credits in a special summer school, putting her back on track for graduation.

A preliminary evaluation by the Casey Family Foundation found that more than 90 percent of seniors participating in the program graduate, compared with one-third of foster students not in the program in Los Angeles County, and that more than 80 percent have enrolled in college, compared with 15 percent of foster students statewide. By the end of the 2009-10 school year, 100 percent of participating students had passed the portions of the California High School Exit Exam required for graduation.

Mitchell now attends a Pomona community college, Mt. San Antonio College. She hopes to become a cardio-thoracic surgeon.