Oceanside CA— AT&T presented a $300,000 contribution to Interfaith Community Services to assist in launching the Transitional Youth Academy program at El Camino High School in Oceanside.
Interfaith Community Services is one of thirty recipients to receive grants through the Aspire Initiative out of a pool of over 1,100 applicants. “After an extremely competitive process, Interfaith Community Services was selected as one of the most promising partners in our effort to solve the [high school] dropout crisis and prepare students for college and career success.” announced John Osborne, Director of External Affairs for AT&T during a press conference, Thursday morning, on the rooftop patio of the El Camino High School Science building.
“Being a good community partner is important to AT&T” said Mr. Osborne, “Education has always been a priority for AT&T. We believe that investing in a well-educated workforce, maybe the most important thing we can do to help create a strong local and global economy.” Osborne said AT&T has committed over $350 million dollars, nationally, through their Aspire Initiative.
The Transitional Youth Academy(TYA) program, operated by Interfaith Community Services in partnership with Oceanside Unified School District, has been immensely successful in improving graduation rates for at-risk youth, showing a 100% high school graduation rate among program participants. “The Transitional Youth Academy, at Oceanside High School, has been a huge success in our district. It is our hope we will experience equal results with the new academy at El Camino High School.” said Dr. Adrianne Hakes, Board President, Oceanside Unified School District.
Lillian Adams, a retired teacher, high school counselor and Clerk on the OUSD Board witnessed the transformation of students as they progressed through the program. ” I became acquainted with TYA when I volunteered at Interfaith Coastal Services. I remember a bunch of young men, coming through our office who were sagging and angry at the world. Just a few weeks later, that same group of students came to the center with ties on, standing tall and so they [TYA] know how to deal with our students at risk.”
“Interfaith Community Services is so grateful to AT&T for this opportunity.” said Greg Angela, Executive Director of Interfaith Community Services. “This grant from AT&T effectively doubles the program in The Transitional Youth Academy that has been so successful for so many years at Oceanside High School.”
Angela said of the 200 students that went through the academy last year, 85% increased their GPA and 100% of the seniors graduated from High School. Angela added that 90% of those who graduated are now enrolled in higher education. “The program works because it’s a true partnership” continued Angela. “The Transitional Youth Academy is a blended model of academic support, vocational training, counseling and success.”
Amadeo West, a senior at Oceanside High School, participates in the Transitional Youth Academy and is a varsity football player play on both the offensive and defensive lines. “My mom raised me, by herself, for most of my life. The program has been a big benefit to me by providing me role models like Vu (Vu Nguyen is a mentor with the Transitional Youth Academy). He offered me a job because he understood my situation.” continued West” That taught me hard work and responsibility which are life-long lessons I’ve learned.” West said his success in the program and the help he has received, from the staff and volunteers, led to him getting a scholarship to West Point. West added he has since received two more scholarship offers.
Felix Sierra, another student going through the academy at OHS transferred to Oceanside from Rancho Cordova after his freshman year. “Coming from a school that was very small and where I was a highly viewed, respected person then coming down here to a large school where I was a nobody, it was very hard on me.” continued Sierra, “I didn’t come to school on time, I skipped school and didn’t see the reason to come to school. I argued with my mom a lot and blamed her for moving us down here. I was very anti-social when I came here. This program has really changed my life.”
Felix spoke about not really having a father, “He used to hurt my mom” he said, and how he was unable to walk or speak until he was three years old. “I was bullied. It was very hard for me.” Sierra continued “This program has really changed my life. I can’t thank you enough AT&T and Interfaith Services for giving me an opportunity, a chance to find myself again. To give me that confidence, that drive, that goal to do better. To do something.”
California Assembly-member Rocky Chavez issued a challenge to the students ” As you get a little bit older, you go out and get involved in the community. All of you make somebody better.”