SDCE Encourages Community Collaboration to Support Disconnected Youth

members of clergy and local community leaders sit outside ECC for community breakfast

SAN DIEGO—On Wednesday, October 19, San Diego Continuing Education (SDCE) hosted a breakfast to engage community leaders to help young adults in San Diego who have dropped out of school or are not working. The event hosted many community leaders and educational organizations including Carlos O. Turner Cortez, Ph.D., President of San Diego Continuing Education, Cheryl Hibbeln, Executive Director of the Office of Secondary Schools for San Diego Unified School District, Michael Brunker, Executive Director of the Jackie Robinson YMCA, Andy Hall, Vice President and Chief Program Officer from the San Diego Workforce Partnership and Ian Gordon, Director of the San Diego Youth Development Office.

“SDCE’s mission and focus for 100 years has been to educate adult students and help them reach their educational goals,” said Carlos O. Turner Cortez, Ph.D., President of SDCE. “And our faculty and staff have successfully served well over one million students through this mission, but in many cases students require much more than we can provide in the classroom to be successful. Often they need community resources such as transportation or public assistance to truly help them succeed.”

SDCE has become part of a national Opportunity Youth movement, partially supported by the Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions with the San Diego Youth Development Office focusing on local issues.

Opportunity Youth are young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor working. According to data available in the San Diego Youth Development Office, in San Diego, this group includes 53,000 people who primarily reside in Mid-City, Barrio Logan and Mountain View communities. This population represents an opportunity for San Diego to draw on the talents of potential leaders and future workforce to meet the needs of local employers. As a whole these youth are eager to further their education, gain work experience, and help their communities.

“Community partnerships can mean an organization providing onsite resources to our students, business leaders serving on industry advisory councils or creating student internships,” said Star Rivera-Lacey, Ph.D., Vice President of Student Services at SDCE. “Support can also be simply sharing information about the free classes and training SDCE offers.”

With feedback and support from the community, SDCE will launch a new San Diego Gateway to College and Career initiative that focuses programs and efforts toward getting students from the high school classroom into college or a career. This is an example of the types of new programs and resources at SDCE that will support Opportunity Youth, and bring more community organizations together.

“Gateway Students” will have access to counseling support to develop individual academic and career objectives, computer labs, paid internships, dedicated case management, student ambassadors, community resources and intensive support to transition into short-term training programs.

“Research shows students who want to succeed, will succeed as long as they have the resources they need,” said Dr. Rivera-Lacey. “San Diego Gateway to College and Career is designed to provide every support the student needs for success—from transportation to attend class, to a paid internship—whatever it takes, we will do everything possible to make students college- or career-ready when they leave SDCE.”

Faculty and staff at SDCE are receiving specialized training to be able to provide new types of services to students beyond traditional educational instruction and service. Five-day Experiential Learning Institute (FELI) through the Academy for College Excellence is one example. FELI has demonstrated results improving student outcomes and creating positive peer-based learning communities for at-risk student populations.

The Gateway to College program is currently available at 43 colleges in 23 different states. The San Diego Gateway to College and Career is the only program in San Diego affiliated with Gateway to College National Network.

Mission: San Diego Continuing Education commits to student success and community enrichment by providing accessible, equitable, and innovative quality education and support services to diverse adult learners in pursuit of lifelong learning, training, career advancement, and pathways to college.