Advocating for Access to Higher Education Programs for Juvenile Justice Involved Youth

By Giving List Staff   |   July 19, 2022

California’s juvenile justice system intervenes in the lives of some of the children who have experienced the greatest challenges, and promises to provide them treatment, care, guidance, rehabilitation, and a pathway to a better future. This promise is critical for the health of our youth and our communities. Education should be central to that mission. But too frequently, youth in the juvenile justice system are denied access to the supports and resources they need to access basic education, graduate high school and pursue the postsecondary education that might provide them the keys to a different life. While education has been proven to be one of the most effective strategies to reduce youth’s future contact with the justice system, college is often completely out of reach for students in the juvenile justice system.

The Youth Law Center’s Pathways from Youth Incarceration to Higher Education project has led the charge to create new college educational opportunities for justice involved youth for the past seven years. YLC’s vision is that college, in particular community college, can prevent youth incarceration and serve as a support to allow youth who are returning home to their community from incarceration to thrive. YLC’s advocacy victories include creating new state laws that create educational protections, rights and access for youth; collaboration with community and state colleges to scale and replicate model supportive college campus programming for youth; and advocacy to create new resources that prioritize college opportunities for these students. YLC’s vision is that every student has opportunities to reach their full potential.

This summer, YLC celebrates yet another advocacy milestone towards their vision of college access and success for our youth. On June 30th, Governor Gavin Newsom signed California’s budget, which contained a historic investment of $15 million in funding to community colleges specifically for youth impacted by the juvenile justice system. As the first state in the country to dedicate postsecondary funding specifically to these youth, California is setting a national model for effective youth justice investment. The ongoing annual funds of $15 million will fund model programming at up to 45 community colleges to help students  receive strong support and services to access and complete their college education and reach their full potential. Read the full press release here.


Youth Law Center

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(415) 314-4386
Executive Director: Jennifer Rodriguez


The Youth Law Center advocates to transform foster care and juvenile justice systems across the nation so every child and youth can thrive.

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YLC is, quite simply, effective. The team, led by Jennifer Rodriguez, is top notch, bringing together legal expertise, lived experience, a commitment to being youth-centered, and the advocacy chops to effect systemic change. A recent example is the advocacy around out-of-state placements for foster youth. YLC researched 16 facilities housing CA kids and found abuse, neglect, appalling conditions, and rights violations. YLC’s advocacy campaign resulted in the State of CA halting admissions to those facilities and beginning the process to decertify them in favor of family-based placements. Systems change work takes time but is deeply satisfying, and why the Foundation continues to support YLC.
Nancy Wiltsek, MNA
Executive Director, van Loben Sels/RembeRock Foundation
The Youth Law Center is truly a cornerstone organization, successfully building a network of nonprofit and public sector advocates committed to promoting pathways to and through postsecondary education for youth connected to the juvenile justice system. By fostering links between the probation system and California’s higher education institutions, YLC and its policy advocacy strategy have advanced the notion that justice reform must meaningfully include youth. The team at Youth Law Center is a valuable thought partner to Cal Wellness as we consider our investments to help improve the wellbeing of youth who are too often ignored.
Jeffrey S. Kim, JD
Program Director,
The California Wellness Foundation

Give to Create Opportunity for Justice-Impacted Youth

Donations to the Youth Law Center will directly support its advocacy to transform foster care and juvenile justice systems so that every young person has access to postsecondary education. 

“With additional funding, we can expand our advocacy to ensure that more youth become tomorrow’s leaders,” says Jennifer Rodriguez, Youth Law Center’s Executive Director.

To illustrate the important impact of donations:

•A $1,000 gift would allow YLC to invest in the leadership of a justice-impacted youth to work in partnership with advocates on policy reforms.

•$20,000 is enough to fund an entire advocacy leadership academy to give young people the skills they need to change the very systems that so often hurt them.

•With $100,000, YLC could launch a campaign to secure additional state investment in postsecondary education for justice-impacted youth in order to ensure equitable futures for tens of thousands of vulnerable young people.

Key Supporters

Alyssa Martin Anderson
Babak Naficy
Chrystie Chung
Fatima Goss Graves
Heidi Foreman
Honorable Tomar Mason
Howard and Carol Fine
Iris Hu
Joy Singleton
Katee Peek
Matthew and Moon Gemello
Mehrzad Khajenoori
William S. Koski and Sundari Wind
Akonadi Foundation
Andrus Family Fund
Annie E. Casey Foundation
The California Wellness Foundation
May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust
Tipping Point Community
van Löben Sels/RembeRock Foundation
The Walter S. Johnson Foundation
Zellerbach Family Foundation