Through YLC’s Pathways to Higher Education work, we are expanding the number of postsecondary education opportunities available to young people who are currently or have been involved in the juvenile justice system in California.

This innovative work re-imagines higher education as an important habilitation anchor to bring youth back to their communities and offer the opportunities they need to succeed.

Youth want to continue their education and they have the resilience and potential to succeed and lead. We can create the practices, policies and resources so every youth can fulfill their dreams.

Featured Programs

College of San Mateo (CSM): Project Change – Provides wrap-around student support services, direct access to postsecondary education for incarcerated youth, and college instruction inside juvenile facilities. The project connects students to CSM resources and programs, including college readiness, leadership opportunities, cohort learning communities, and career and technical education programs. A supportive network of volunteer faculty, staff mentors, a project director, Court Appointed Special Advocates, and others support the students to be successful in their college studies while in custody and once they are attending classes on campus.

Riverside City College and UC-Riverside: College Connection – A resource specialist works with high school students in juvenile facilities to identify pathways to higher education and career success, to prepare for the PSAT and SAT, and to complete college and financial aid applications. Youth in custody can attend online Riverside City College courses and receive support to transition smoothly to on-campus studies upon their release. Probation-supervised youth who are not in custody can participate in a summer camp with college courses, tours of the UC-Riverside campus, and conversations with formerly incarcerated college students.

Sacramento City College: Re-emerging Scholars Program – Sacramento City College faculty provide 6-week college courses to youth in the juvenile hall, building supportive connections with the youth while they are still in custody to facilitate continuity when they are released and attending courses on campus. Once on campus, these students enter a one-year cohort, taking a variety of general education classes including sociology courses tailored to the unique experiences of re-entry after incarceration. Students also receive check-ins from faculty, staff, and peer mentors to help them troubleshoot challenges and to connect them to services. At the conclusion of the cohort, students will complete the majority of their general education requirements, formed a new, pro-social peer network, completed a paid internship, and gained the personal, professional, and academic skills in order to be successful in their future endeavors.

For more programs, please visit the programs archive.

Student Voice

Jacqueline Rodriguez

Student, Youth Education Advocate, and Mother
College of San Mateo, San Mateo, CA

“College has given me a second opportunity to educate myself and to learn about things I am passionate about. By being educated and going to school, I can reach my full potential and find a way forward with my life. That’s so important for me and for my children, too. Going to college is a really big deal, given what I went through being in the juvenile justice system. When I was younger, folks gave up on me, and I gave up on myself. When I was in juvenile hall, girls camp, or group homes, I never thought about pursuing higher education. When I was incarcerated, everything seemed so impossible. Without programs like Project Change, children in halls and camps have no hope or guidance. It’s like game over for them. And yet, kids in juvenile hall have so much knowledge. They are so smart. But because they have no opportunity, they don’t have a chance to use their intelligence which is so heartbreaking and such a waste of time. Education saved me. College is a way for me to show that I can accomplish what I set my mind to and prove people wrong who said I wouldn’t accomplish anything. Knowledge is power. Knowing what is going on around you prepares you to change things you don’t think are right. Going to college expands my thinking and allows me to stand up for people’s rights and to do the advocacy I’m doing now. Through my college education, I am changing my life, and now I can give back to my community and to the people who have helped me through my journey.”

News & Updates

YLC, Project Change, SB 716 featured in KQED article

July 15, 2019 – We are so grateful to KQED and reporter Vanessa Rancaño for featuring YLC’s efforts to increase post-secondary opportunities for juvenile justice involved youth, Senate Bill 716, and the life-changing work of our partners at Project Change. Click here to read/listen to the full story! “We have to remember that these are children, these are young people,” says Lucy Salcido […]

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2019 Pathways to Higher Education Statewide Conference program

August 5, 2019 – Youth Law Center is excited to share the program for the 2019 Creating Pathways from Youth Incarceration to Higher Education statewide conference! This year’s event will feature opening remarks from Dr. Monte Perez, President, LA Mission College; Hon. Tony Cárdenas, US House of Representatives, 29th District; Hon. Luz Rivas, California Assembly Member, 39th District; Terri McDonald, […]

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2nd Annual Pathways to Higher Education conference a huge success!

August 23, 2019 – Thank you to everyone who joined us the for the second annual Creating Pathways from Youth Incarceration to Higher Education statewide conference! Our 200+ conference attendees from 24 California counties included local, state, and federal policy makers, probation and higher education leadership and staff, community based organizations, students, foundations, and more. Participants learned from each […]

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2019 Pathways from Youth Incarceration to Higher Education Statewide Conference

Thank you to everyone who joined us the for the second annual Creating Pathways from Youth Incarceration to Higher Education statewide conference! Our 200+ conference attendees from 24 California counties included local, state, and federal policy makers, probation and higher education leadership and staff, community based organizations, students, foundations, and more. Participants learned from each other and worked together to find new and innovative ways to better support youth with juvenile justice system involvement reach their highest education goals. Thank you to all of our guests, panelists and presenters, students, our funder The California Wellness Foundation and to our co-hosts Los Angeles Mission College for making this year’s conference an inspiring and successful event!

Stay tuned for upcoming videos and toolkits from the 2019 conference!

In partnership with LA Mission College
Funded by a grant from
The California Wellness Foundation


Juvenile Court Student Transition Statewide Work Group Report and Recommendations to the Legislature

July 2016 – Assembly Bill 2276 (Bocanegra, 2014) required a statewide work group to study successful transition programs and to develop recommendations of how to better support youth transitioning from juvenile court schools back to schools in their communities. This report highlights recommendations that came out of three meetings of the work group, composed of stakeholders from probation, education, advocacy organizations, and the community. Recommendations include: a transition plan for each court school student, designated school personnel to support a successful transition, and guaranteed access for students to credit recovery programs. The group also noted the need for state-level oversight of juvenile court school transition procedures and outcomes.

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Closing the Extracurriculars Gap: Prioritizing Extracurricular Activities as a Key Intervention for Children and Youth in Foster Care and Juvenile Justice

January 2019 – This Youth Law Center report describes the benefits of extracurricular participation for youth, families, and communities; highlights the legal and policy supports for extracurricular participation for system-involved youth; lists system barriers to extracurricular participation; explores ways to overcome those barriers; and makes recommendations to increase extracurricular participation for system-involved youth. The report notes that extracurriculars are crucial for access to higher education, not only to have a competitive college application and help secure funding, but also to build the skills and connections youth need to succeed in college.

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A Positive Youth Justice System

February 2019 – The National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (NICJR) is designing a transformed juvenile justice system that is rooted in communities, that is based on restorative justice practices, and that invests in youth, families, and communities. This NICJR report lays out ten steps to transform the juvenile justice system to improve outcomes for youth and protect public safety. One of the recommendations is to replace current facilities with education-focused, therapeutic programs close to the youth's home, and to use such facilities only when the youth has been adjudicated for a serious offense, the youth is a serious risk to public safety, and all community-based alternatives have been exhausted.

Learn More

For more resources, please visit the Education Access section of our Resource Library.

Featured Q&A


Can youth in a detention facility access the internet to take online community college courses?


California law says that young people in a county juvenile hall, camp, ranch, or forestry ranch must have access to computers and the Internet “for the purposes of education.” The law also says that county probation can limit or deny that access for safety, security, or staffing reasons. But barring those exceptions, young people in county juvenile facilities should be able to use computers and the Internet to complete their high school and college coursework. (See Welfare and Institutions Code §§ 851.1 and 889.1.)

Those two laws don’t apply to young people in state facilities run by California’s Division of Juvenile Facilities, but young people in those facilities have the right under California law to “receive a quality education” and “to attend age-appropriate school classes and vocational training.” (See Welfare and Institutions Code § 224.71 (n).) In today’s technology-centric society, a quality education, particularly at high school and college levels, requires access to computers and the Internet.

Special Thanks

Funded by a grant from The California Wellness Foundation.

Pathways to Higher Education Statewide Steering Committee working together with Youth Law Center:

Katie Bliss
Project Director, San Mateo County Community College District, Project Change
Dr. Kimberly Born
Education Administrator, Title I Program Policy and Guidance Office, CA Department of Education
Dr. Jesus Corral
Senior Director of Education Services, Los Angeles County Probation Department
Nick Esquivel
Specialist, CA Community College Chancellor's Office
Ron Galatolo
Chancellor, San Mateo County Community College District
Colleen Ganley
Program Specialist, Student Services Division, CA Community College Chancellor's Office
Shimica Gaskins
Executive Director, Children's Defense Fund - California
Jeffrey S. Kim
Program Director, CA Wellness Foundation
Kim McGill
Organizer, Youth Justice Coalition
Stephanie Medley
Director of Education and Justice, RYSE Center
Sean T. Morrill
Division Director, San Joaquin County Office of Education, CA County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA)
Chief Allen A. Nance
Chief Probation Officer, Juvenile Probation Department, San Francisco County, Chief Probation Officers of CA (CPOC)
Dr. Monte Perez
President; Board Member, Los Angeles Mission College; Los Angeles County Office of Education
Dr. Matt Perry
Asst. Superintendent, Sacramento County Office of Education, CA County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA)
Anthony Robles
Youth Organizer, Youth Justice Coalition
Jason Spencer
Principal Advisor to the State Superintendent, CA Department of Education
Charles (Chuck) Supple
Director, Division of Juvenile Justice
Rosalinda Vint
Executive Director, Women of Substance, Men of Honor
John Keene
Chief Probation Officer, San Mateo County Probation, Chief Probation Officers of CA (CPOC)
Dr. Diana Reuss Walsh
Associate Superintendent of Schools, Riverside County Office of Education, CA County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA)

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