Recently, Washington Passport Network (WPN) staff had the opportunity to attend a dynamic two-day conference in Los Angeles focused on supporting foster youth to achieve their higher education goals. The Blueprint for Success Conference, hosted by California College Pathways and sponsored by John Burton Advocates for Youth provides an opportunity for professionals who support foster youth to come together and share meaningful experiences and learn from one another through workshops, lectures and networking. Passport staff members Juliette Schindler Kelly, Director of Public Affairs & Strategic Partnerships at College Success Foundation (CSF) and Donna Quach, Program Officer, Statewide Initiatives at CSF, attended the conference with 20 other Washington State delegates. More than half of whom were first-time attendees of the conference.
Workshops at the conference included an array of topics from helping manage students in transition to setting post-secondary goals, and from cultivating reliance to using empathy for healing. A session that was particularly impactful for WPN staff was Postsecondary Transitions for Foster Youth: What Can We Learn from the Data? This session provided insights into a recent California College Pathways and Educational Results Partnership report on foster youth transitions and the challenges of accurate foster youth data reporting. The presentation showcased a new dashboard on the Cal-PASS Plus system which helps practitioners obtain and use youth data to improve educational and career outcomes. WPN staff were impressed with the dashboard and potential impact it could have on students. Exploring how Washington State can build a similar one tool is of much interest to the staff.
In addition to providing innovative workshops and engaging lectures, the 2019 Blueprint for Success Conference celebrated the success of the California Foster Youth FAFSA Challenge. The statewide campaign was created to increase the number of foster youth who are prepped for success as they matriculate from high school to college by completing the FAFSA during their senior year. With the knowledge that 90% of California’s foster youth aspire to complete college, this challenge is an important step in ensuring those students have access to financial aid which will lead to enrollment in a program and success in obtaining a degree or certificate. The FAFSA campaign has increased California statewide FAFSA completion from 45% to 57% of all seniors graduating high school. It was empowering to celebrate the success of the FAFSA challenge knowing that this initiative is moving the needle and an additional 61,000 children and youth in the California foster care system have a brighter future because of it.
Washington Passport Network staff are grateful for the opportunity to have attended the Blueprint for Success Conference and to interact with other professionals and leaders dedicated to the success and empowerment of foster care youth. Through shared knowledge and stories of impact, California College Pathways and John Burton Advocates for Youth have created an experience which helps our community of advocates to better serve those who rely on us the most.