By Angela Clark-Taylor and Carol Ann Franklin
The University of Redlands School of Education (SOE) prides itself on educating students to make an impact by promoting equity and justice in education. SOE prepares students to be leaders in their field and creates innovative opportunities for them to become immersed in their learning. One way the School of Education merges these goals is through community engaged experiential learning, more commonly known as service learning.
Service learning increases student understanding of the class topics. It provides hands-on experience while simultaneously exploring social issues and their root causes. This is also of great benefit to faculty who seek reciprocal learning with their students. For community partners, service learning can increase resources needed to achieve organizational goals.
This spring term, EDUC 654 Career Development Theory and Practice and EDUC 669 Diversity in Higher Education, are engaging in a service learning project to learn more about the needs of foster youth and increase college and career readiness for foster, homeless, and unaccompanied youth. The main service component of the project includes assisting in the planning and implementation of the Career and College Readiness Conference for foster, unaccompanied, and homeless youth in San Bernardino County.
California has the largest population of foster youth in the country. In San Bernardino County there are thousands of children in foster care, group homes, and kinship care. Too often these children slip through the cracks of the child welfare and education systems. With only approximately 50% of foster youth graduating from high school and 6% graduating from college, it is evident that we have much work to do.
The Career and College Readiness Conference will bring SOE together with San Bernardino County, local school districts, and regional colleges through the Summer Success Academy and the Student Success Partnership. Since 2008 the Student Success Partnership has been working to address the academic and vocational needs of foster youth. The focus of the Partnership is to provide academic support and build relationships to help youth be successful academically. The Partnership provides support as foster youth move on into post secondary educational and career opportunities. The foster youth are supported by the partners of the program: Group Homes, SBCSS Foster Youth Services, and University of Redlands. The elements that create the foundation for the Partnership include: tutoring, Saturday Success Academy, Professional Staff Development, and Summer Success Academy.
The Career and College Readiness Conference, to be held at the University of Redlands in August, is a new intuitive this year for the Student Success Partnership. SOE students are serving on the planning committee for the conference and, through a group projects, are also developing the educational workshops for the conference. On May 17 and June 21, students met with community partners to brainstorm ideas for the conference and get feedback on their workshops from professionals that work directly with foster youth. Stay tuned for news on the conference proceedings this August!