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Education

New California funding helps college students who are foster kids

San Diego County students who grew up in foster care will benefit this school year from millions of dollars in new state funding.

On June 30, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the newest California budget with the support of the Legislature. It includes an additional $48 million to support foster youth in college.

Housing is the most immediate need for many of them.

San Diego-based Promises2Kids is the only organization in the United States that supports foster children from birth through adulthood.

Every year, at least 300 college students are helped through the organization’s Guardian Scholar program.

“You still see huge numbers of students struggling with homelessness because of the cost, because of what’s available, and everything in between. So this is much needed,” said Stephanie Ortega who is the Promises2Kids chief operating officer.

Homelessness can include living in a vehicle, couch surfing, living in hotels, temporarily staying with family and/or friends, sleeping on the street, and generally not having a stable, secure place to live.

At San Diego State University alone, there are 3,000 students who will start the fall semester without a permanent home.

Wesley House, on the campus of San Diego State, is an affordable housing complex that makes room for students who have a low income and often grew up in foster care.

Roberto Lopez, 27, rents one of the apartments. He knows the struggle many students like him face. He was in foster care since he was 5. “I came from a place where we didn’t have a role model or anyone to look up to,” he said. “Life was just really understanding it on your own, and I made a lot of mistakes throughout my time.”

Right now, San Diego County reports more than 3,000 children in foster care, and most of them have siblings who have been placed in separate homes. And statistics show that only 8% of foster youth graduate from college.

Ikemba Dyke, 21, came to California from Jamaica alone when he was 16.

Dyke was abandoned by his father and abused by his mentally ill mother. More state funding means that he will be able to keep his apartment and graduate from SDSU next spring with a double major in criminal justice and public administration.

He said he was much more hopeful now for his future. “There are people out there that want to hear you. There are people out there that respect your story and that would love to be a part of your life and your journey,” Dyke said.

Robert Lopez is hopeful, too. He just transferred from Grossmont College to San Diego State University with plans to get a degree in social work. He wants to help other foster kids after he graduates.