LOS ANGELES - Back to school means continued college prep time for an unlikely group of high school seniors like Khalia, with higher education in mind. Thanks to a non-profit called First Star youth in foster care have been groomed for college since the 9th grade.
The students are called First Star Scholars and they're in First Star Academies. They are hand-picked in an effort to change the odds for kids in foster care.
In the U.S. there are 400,000 American kids in foster care. First Star says statistics show only nine percent of kids in the system go on to college. With First Star it is an impressive 90 percent.
UCLA hosts the First Star Bruin Guardian Scholars Academy. Each summer kids in foster care spend several weeks living on campus in the dorms. They also meet monthly all four years of high school on college readiness and test scores.
Edwin had never been on a college campus until First Star. In 2019, First Star had 450 students enrolled across the country, 30 per campus. Semaje wants to major in architecture.
The idea for First Star came from a man with a history in Hollywood. Movie producer Peter Samuelson (Revenge of the Nerds, Arlington Road, Wilde) is the co-founder. He wasn't in foster care but is the first in his family to go to college. He also founded the Starlight Children's Foundation.
California Governor Gavin Newsom is so sold on First Star that he funded a $700,000-dollar program in the state budget for an academy to be set up at Sacramento State. Newsom's parents were foster parents.
First Star marks its 20th anniversary this year. A gala on September 22nd will help fund the programs.