Lindsay Miedema, an English and writing tutor, is available for free tutoring in the FAST Center for Mesa’s foster youth statistics. Photo credit: Renee Schmiedeberg
Lindsay Miedema, an English and writing tutor, is available for free tutoring in the FAST Center for Mesa’s foster youth statistics. Photo credit: Renee Schmiedeberg

Mesa opens region’s first community college foster youth center

October 31, 2019

This fall semester saw the opening of San Diego Mesa College’s Fostering Academic Success & Transitions (FAST) Center. It is the only physical space in a San Diego community college devoted entirely to the needs of foster youth. Instead of bouncing between help desks and counselor’s offices, the new FAST Center is the physical manifestation of Mesa’s NextUp and FAST Scholars programs, a place where foster youth on campus can congregate, make use of the many resources available to them, or just hang out.

When asked why foster youth have this center on campus, Sade Burrell, EOPS Counselor and FAST Scholars Program Coordinator said, “Statistics show that only three percent of foster youth graduate college. That means they have a 97% chance of failing once they step on campus. We’re able to increase that by providing not only a safe place for them to come on campus to feel welcome but also a place where they can meet people who’ve been in a similar situation.” Sade added that foster youth are ten times more likely suffer from PTSD than war veterans. In addition to a lower graduation rate, former foster youth have a higher chance of having children at a young age and are more likely to become homeless at a young age.  “For the past two years we’ve had the most foster youths graduate or transfer from a community college in San Diego, and we had a total of nine students who graduated or transferred to a four-year. They went to Cal State San Marcos, UCSD, SDSU.” said Burrell.

Falisha Garlow, a FAST Scholar, was seen making use of the computers provided in the Center. “I’m grateful for the opportunities that have been provided to me. I am currently transitioning to a new facility. I contacted the FAST Center and instantly they reached out to me. It’s like a family.” said Garlow.

Burrell mentioned that she wants the Center to feel inviting and friendly, to encourage more foster students to visit and take advantage of their services. No stairs are even needed to walk into the Center, as it is conveniently located in the center of campus, near the Learning Resource Center Quad and Apolliad Theater. The Center is spacious and greets visitors with bright colors and plenty of natural light. Informational flyers on various campus resources are available by the door. Cushioned modular seating in happy greens, oranges, greys, and turquoise line the wall. Above the cushions is a whiteboard listing hours of math and writing tutors are available, virtually all day, Monday through Friday. No appointments even necessary! Several computers, hot drinks, cold drinks, snacks, a fridge, and even more seating await foster youth. Fresh pencils, mints, and hand sanitizers are strewn on a wide desk. The west-facing wall is lined in floor to ceiling cabinets, where foster students can energize themselves with snacks and meals. Posters in the room advertise for upcoming events such as Burrell’s Motivational Workshop every Thursday (open to all students) and a Financial Literacy Workshop specifically geared towards NextUp and FAST Scholars.

A wealth of services is available for those foster youth who seek it. Academic advising, textbook support, transportation stipends, student activities, and student health and counseling services can all be accessed at the FAST Center. Whatever their background, Mesa is rooting for its foster youth.

Cabinets at the FAST Center are stocked with an assortment of food items available to former and current foster youth. Photo credit: Renee Schmiedeberg


The FAST Center is located in D-102.

FAST Center office hours:

Monday — Thursday: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Friday: 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

To speak to a FAST Center professional call (619) 388 – 5895, email Sade Burrell at or visit the EOPS webpage.

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