Unique foster teen program paves road to bright futures - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Unique foster teen program paves road to bright futures

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ESCONDIDO (CBS8) - A county school has a near perfect graduation rate, but what's truly amazing is that these students are also foster kids.

Nestled in the hills of the San Pasqual Valley, lies a hidden gem-- a sprawling school campus that's transforming lives. Graduating senior Josh Racette told CBS8, "I'm pretty sure that without San Pasqual Academy, a lot of kids would either end up on the street or in gangs."

Racette, who's 18, is the first person from his family to graduate high school and go to college. He said, "I'm really excited and my family's really proud of me." He and a fellow classmate are now the first two students in the school's 10 year history to receive an athletic scholarship to play college football. They will both be attending Mayville State University in North Dakota.

San Pasqual Academy is a unique residential program for foster kids, the only one of its kind in the country. County Supervisor Ron Roberts told CBS8, "San Pasqual Academy has a graduation rate now approaching 99-percent."

Supervisors Roberts and Greg Cox helped spearhead the effort to create the campus a decade ago. Roberts said of the students, "They're inspired, they're educated, we're seeing a whole difference from just a few years ago. We had statistics that almost half the kids that were coming out of foster care program, were becoming homeless within a few years after they transitioned out. We wanted to get away from that."

Supervisor Cox said, "If they've gone through 10 to15 placements, maybe a foster family isn't the best environment for them, that was the genesis of San Pasqual Academy."

San Pasqual has 8 teachers for the 136 students who live there. There are slightly more girls than boys. There are 24 houses which have all the comforts of home-- a cozy family room, bedrooms and kitchen where the 6 to 8 kids in each home gather for meals. Racette said, "They really try to make us feel like we're at home."

There are also house parents, like Debbie and Bob West, who live with the kids. Debbie said, "We love them as if they were our own." The Wests have been married for 36 years and have 2 grown children. They have been house parents for 5 years. "I wouldn't trade it for anything," Debbie said, adding that what's so rewarding is "the fact that we can be part of these kids' lives and help guide them, get them to college, and have a good successful life."

Racette, who is one of 29 students who will receive their diplomas on graduation day June 23rd, says he's looking forward to starting college. He said, "I know there are good things waiting in the world for me, and I can't wait to get there and make things happen."

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