Rodney Foo, Jim Beall’s office, (408) 282-8920
Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations, (408) 924-1748
SAN JOSE — More than 25 foster youths attending San Jose State University gathered on campus Nov. 30 to receive and celebrate a wellspring of community support aimed at making a difference in their lives — free bikes and a new state law that grants them priority registration for classes.
Attending the celebration ceremony were San Jose State President Mohammad H. Qayoumi; Assemblymember Jim Beall, who introduced the law, AB 194; Connie Hernández-Robbins, assistant director of San Jose State’s Guardian Scholars Program, which provides support services for foster youth students; Synergy Corporate Housing founding partners Jack Jensky and Henry Luebbert; and Colin Gray, president-elect of the Housing Industry Foundation, which donated and directed the bikes to the students.
“That so many people from the private and public sectors united to help foster youth is symbolic of what our society can achieve,” Qayoumi said.
“Always, but perhaps especially in this tough economy, partnerships of elected officials, corporations, foundations and nonprofits are an excellent means to provide our young people with the academic, professional and support services they need not just to graduate, but also to make meaningful and lasting contributions to our community and our workforce,” Qayoumi said.
The genesis for AB 194 came directly from foster youth students at San Jose State, said Assemblymember Beall, who chairs the Assembly Select Committee on Foster Care.
“They emphasized how difficult it was to get the classes they needed,’’ Beall said. “They have to graduate on time because many of them only qualify for four years of financial assistance and that’s it. I truly believe this new law will improve their college retention and graduate rates. It’s a known fact that when foster youth get the support they need, their chances of success improve dramatically.’’
This month, foster youth at San Jose State were allowed to sign up early for next semester’s classes as a result of AB 194, which was signed into law by the Governor in October.
Jazmin Perez, a former foster youth and freshman majoring in Liberal Studies, said being assured of getting the classes she requires is all the inspiration she needs to get her diploma.
“Having priority registration makes me motivated,’’ Perez said. “Knowing that I can pick my classes and get the classes I need to continue onto my college career makes me that much more excited about college.’’
Statistics show the hurdles to a college diploma are high. While 70 percent of former foster youth indicate a desire to go to college only 20 percent do enroll. Only three percent will graduate.
The vast majority of these students, who were originally placed in foster care because of parental abuse or neglect, have no one to rely on other than themselves once they leave foster care at age 18. For many, transportation can be a problem – a problem that can be partially solved by the acquisition of a bike.
The bikes were donated by Synergy Corporate Housing and directed to the SJSU students through a partnership of the Housing Industry Foundation, Cort Furniture, and Outreach, the nonprofit paratransit agency that serves people with disabilities in Santa Clara County. Each student also received a helmet and lock.
“Although our primary focus is housing, we are always happy to connect our supporters who have items to donate to worthy recipients in the community,’’ said Colin Gray, of the Housing Industry Foundation.
“We appreciate Assemblymember Jim Beall’s efforts to assist foster youth who are pursuing a college education and we are thrilled that we were able to help Synergy Corporate Housing make these bicycles through available through Outreach.’’