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 Foster Care Education Summit Connects Students, Educators

Educators, students and community members came together last month to discuss ways to increase educational outcomes for students in foster care at the Third Annual Foster Care Education Summit.

The two-day conference June 25 and 26 was organized by the San Diego County Office of Education’s Foster Youth Services Coordinating Program and Homeless Education Services unit.

The free conference included inspirational keynote speakers and informative workshops.

The first day of the conference was led by two dynamic motivational adult alumni of foster care, Jaiya John and Dee Hankins, along with ten youth ambassadors who were also in foster care. Youth ambassadors spent two days in training to learn the skills needed to lead the larger group of young people at the summit.

Twenty-five youth attendees participated in activities such as team building, strategic sharing, leadership development, empowerment lessons and networking on the first day. The next day, they incorporated all these skills to create a youth-focused environment while more than 250 stakeholders from throughout the county attended a full-day conference.

Stakeholders included: Juvenile Court judges, attorneys, social workers, child welfare administrators, probation officers, community-based organizations, school-site and school-district personnel, group home providers, higher education partners, and foster parents.

Dr. Kevin Holt, superintendent of the San Marcos Unified School District, was the keynote speaker along with one of his students, Julius Lowe. Dr. Holt had met Julius last year and mentored him with the support of Foster Youth and Homeless Education Services.

Holt and Lowe spoke about the power of connections, the significance of relationships, and the healing effect of hope. Because of the impact the mentoring has made in Julius’ life, Holt said he has challenged everyone in his district to pick one student to take extra time helping.

Youth voice was infused throughout the day. Student participants were asked what they would like school personnel to know.

“Every child needs them to look out for their education,” one student wrote. “So much happens in their lives and other things take the focus. We all have to remember how important school and school stability is to them now and in their future."