JBAY Transforms Helplessness into Hope

“Because of you, I had the opportunity to make a positive difference in my students’ lives. Because of you, many are safe with a roof over their heads.”

This is what we heard recently from Rosemary Touyanou at Santiago Canyon College in Orange, California. Rosemary contacted John Burton Advocates for Youth to express her thanks for creating the California College Pathways Rapid Response Program. 

The California College Pathways Rapid Response Program was established in May to address the growing needs of college foster youth impacted by COVID-19 by providing access to flexible resources for housing, food, technology access, transportation, health care, and other emergency needs. It is a partnership between John Burton Advocates for Youth and Together We Rise, funded by a consortium of foundations and individual contributors. Since May, 445 youth have been assisted. 

According to Rosemary, the help has been a lifeline for the foster youth who are facing the pandemic without the support of an extended family. 

“One of my students was living in an extremely dangerous environment – in a barn, surrounded by drug dealers and drug users. Another student was about to be evicted with her children. Thanks to the California College Pathways Rapid Response Program, these young people are now safe. The young man living in the barn was removed from that environment and is now attending Cal State University Fullerton.

Rosemary explained that COVID has hit home for her students, “One of my students was infected with COVID. She had just started her new job so she had no vacation and no sick time to use during the time she was fighting to stay alive. Then two days after she returned to work, she received the news that her four year old now had COVID. She had to take another 15 days off work. Rent was due, no food, and it seemed that things were getting worse and worse.”

This student received assistance from the California College Pathways Rapid Response Program. According to Rosemary, “I’m happy to report that both she and her daughter are doing well.” 

Before the California College Pathways Rapid Response Program, Rosemary often felt helpless and ended the day with worries and stress. “I felt helpless when one of the students I serve, called and told me what they were facing.” However, this was changed around once the program was developed. “Words cannot express my gratitude at all the assistance my students have received.” 

From Horse Stable to Housing Stability: JBAY Steps In When It Counts

James was a student in community college, struggling to turn his life around after a childhood spent in foster care. He was living in a horse stable in Orange County with his biological father, surrounded by drugs and prostitution. He was making good progress despite this and had found a job and was saving up to move. Then COVID-19 struck and he found himself unemployed and trapped in this unhealthy and unsafe environment.

Unfortunately, James’ story is not unique. As school and business closures take their toll, foster youth enrolled in college are reporting severe income loss resulting in food and housing insecurity and increased likelihood that they will disenroll from school. Recognizing the urgency of this need, JBAY partnered with the nonprofit Together We Rise to create the California College Pathways (CCP) Rapid Response Program, which is designed to stave off an immediate crisis while simultaneously setting foster youth on a path to long-term stability so that they can stay on track with their educational goals.

To date, over 200 students from 70 different campuses across the state have received immediate financial support paired with case management services. This has included support with finding housing, accessing benefits programs, referrals to mental health services, and funds to address emergency food needs. James was referred by his college to the program, which was able to put him up in a hotel for two months. James was able to use this time to find new employment and saved up money.  He is now moving into safe housing and will continue working while he takes summer classes and prepares for fall enrollment.

By helping James and other foster youth, JBAY’s program not only keeps these youth on the path to college completion, it permanently transforms the trajectory of their lives.

JBAY Launches New Safety Net Fund for Foster Youth in College

COVID-19 poses a special risk to more than 30,000 foster youth going to college in California. While other students can often turn to family for emergency help with everything from housing to internet access, many foster youth have had no safety net to fall back on. Until now.

John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) is collaborating with Together We Rise and funders from California College Pathways to help current or former foster youth with college during the pandemic. Together they have created the COVID-19 Safety Net Fund, a rapid response fund to ensure campus programs and nonprofits have immediate access to resources to help foster youth stay in college. Funds can be used to help students with housing, groceries, utilities, travel, health care, educational technology, and other expenses.

For more information on the COVID-19 Safety Net Fund, including details on how campus programs can access it, go to: https://www.jbaforyouth.org/covid19-response-fund/