More than 300 people came together this week to focus on students in foster care and talk about ways to ensure their academic success at the fourth annual San Diego Foster Care Education Summit.
The free conference at San Diego State University Wednesday included inspirational keynote speakers and informative workshops.
"This may have been our best Education Summit yet," said Dr. Michelle Lustig, who manages the San Diego County Office of Education's Foster Youth Services Coordinating Program and Homeless Education Services unit and helped organize the event.
It was sponsored by the Foster Youth and Homeless Education Services unit with help from the Office of Educational Opportunity Programs and Ethnic Affairs at the university.
Participants included students, educators, judges, attorneys, social workers, probation officers, child welfare administrators, school counselors, school psychologists, caregivers, and mentors.
The day before the summit, 28 youth attendees participated in activities such as team building, strategic sharing, leadership development, empowerment lessons and networking. They incorporated those skills to create a youth-focused environment at the summit the following day.
It was an inspirational day, said Kesia Williams, a youth ambassador and alumni of foster care who spoke at the summit.
"I feel like the youth believe people are listening now," she said. "The ambassadors have inspired the youth to see what they can become and what they can contribute."
SDCOE started the event four years ago to ensure that local stakeholders had the information and tools they need to best support students in foster care.
"My whole goal for this event is that the messages that go out are all through the eyes of our kids," Lustig said.