SAN DIEGO — San Diego Mesa College announced the opening of its on-campus support center for current and former foster youth.

The Fostering Academic Success and Transitions Center opened Thursday, coinciding with Mesa College's first week of classes in the fall 2019 semester. The FAST Center offers services such as tutoring, computer access and a food pantry and will serve as a gathering space for youth who have gone through the foster care system.

"The number one goal we had in creating this program was to make it extremely difficult to NOT be successful," FAST Scholars Program Coordinator Sade Burrell said. "The center is a place for students to get the resources they need, whether that includes counseling, tutoring, food, child care, emergency housing and any other need unique to their situation."

Mesa College is the first community college in San Diego County to open an on-campus support center for students in the foster system. Currently, only about one-in-10 foster youth graduate from college and one-third of former foster youth are homeless by age 25. College officials hope the FAST Center will help quell those numbers for students in San Diego.

"What this center does is say, we see our foster youth. We see their experiences. We see the unique contributions that they bring to the campus; that we understand the many challenges or systemic barriers that are often placed in their way," said Ashanti Hands, the college's vice president of student services. "The message we want our students to hear is: Bring your full self."

The FAST Center will be open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays. The FAST Center can be reached at 619-388- 5895.

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