LOS ANGELES, CA— The L.A. County Board of Supervisors today recognized the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) and John Burton Advocates for Youth for their efforts to increase college attainment for current and former foster youth in the region. The recognition preceded a board motion introduced by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn to require county agencies to develop coordinated strategies to support foster youth when applying for and attending college and to designate the month of October “Foster Youth College Awareness Month.”
“As an organization that represents businesses across Los Angeles, we know how important it is to ensure a college-ready L.A., as postsecondary education is critical to developing a skilled workforce. We also know that, in order to sustain a strong, local economy, every student must have a real opportunity for educational success,” said Maria Salinas, President and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. “I am proud of our efforts around college attainment for foster youth, and I look forward to continuing to work with our partners to expand on this success.”
The Chamber has long championed efforts to increase educational opportunity as a strategy to strengthen our regional workforce and promote a thriving and inclusive economy. Given the sizeable population of current and former foster youth in L.A. County, the Chamber has placed a growing focus on developing targeted strategies that improve educational and employment outcomes for foster youth.
“One of the keys to success for our vulnerable youth is the ability achieve their academic goals,” said L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “While many foster and probation youth have a desire and willingness to attend college, they feel it is out of their grasp without the means to pay their tuition. Access to financial aid is a strong indicator of college success and it is imperative that we do more to help our youth access these existing resources.”
In 2013, the Chamber played a leadership role in establishing the L.A. Opportunity Youth Collaborative (OYC) to focus on the educational and employment needs of transition-age foster youth, and in 2016, the Chamber and its nonprofit affiliate, UNITE-LA, partnered with John Burton Advocates for Youth to launch the OYC’s Foster Youth College Advancement Project. Through the OYC, the Chamber directly engages county agencies and works with a broad range of community stakeholders to identify systems improvements that promote self-sufficiency for youth aging out of foster care.
Earlier this year, the Chamber and John Burton Advocates for Youth co-sponsored Senate Bill 940 (Beall) in order to increase financial aid access and make college a reality for more foster youth. In a historic victory for youth, the 2018-19 budget appropriated $5.3 million to enact provisions of SB 940 that expand Cal Grant B entitlements for foster youth by extending the age and maximum length of eligibility.
“We know that foster youth continue to face steep odds to college completion. The changes we want to see won’t happen overnight, but I am confident we can get there together,” said Jessica Petrass, Project Manager at John Burton Advocates for Youth. “The challenges may seem insurmountable for any one organization or group to tackle independently, but we have already seen how big of an impact we can have by working together.”
Together with its partners in government, child welfare, education and the nonprofit sector, the Chamber and the business community will continue working to expand education opportunity for foster youth and other vulnerable young people.
The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce represents the interests of business in L.A. County. Founded in 1888, the Chamber promotes a prosperous economy and quality of life in the Los Angeles region. For more information, visit www.lachamber.com.