Back to Blogs
8m read

Academic Success for our 2020 Graduates

They are not your traditional graduates. They are from a program that offers alternatives for students who don’t fit into traditional education. These students have faced many barriers in academia and are in these programs to earn enough credits to graduate. Youth Chance High School, C.A.R.E. Bayview, and C.A.R.E. Buchanan have not only given students the possibility of graduation when all other methods had failed, but they are allowing these students to take charge of their academic careers through more unconventional tactics. At Youth Chance High School these tactics have given us an inspirational class of 2020 graduates. 

Youth Chance is a county community high school in partnership with San Francisco Unified School District, San Francisco Department of education, and the Embarcadero YMCA. This program works with students between the ages of 16-19 year-round and offers summer classes. Students are on their last leg with traditional academic systems. Probation, child welfare, expulsion, high safety risks, referrals, and truancy courts are the ways students end up at Youth Chance. This alternative education program is impactful to a young adult's life.  

“We are dealing with capital T traumas with some of these students. There are so many barriers in learning that didn’t just go away with Shelter-In-Place (S.I.P). We still need case management and to engage students in critical thinking. Especially for isolated youth. We are able to find them, and meet their needs,” Celan Beausoleil, Director of Youth Chance High School says.  

What makes Youth Chance so unique? 

Youth Chance High School recognizes the need to support the ‘whole student’ through a trauma informed lens. They have clinicians and even a behavioral specialist to meet the needs of the students and provide tools for the staff. Another benefit is the smaller classes. They support 4th to 5th year seniors in smaller classes. Which the students enjoy, “I like all attention on me,” Kiana, a Youth Chance 2020 graduate says about the small class sizes she had. There is a range of support students need to finish their academic careers. This program prioritizes the student’s social and emotional wellbeing to build trust while teaching them critical thinking skills. They earn their credits through completing projects and can officially graduate when they’ve earned their missing credits. Each student has a different story and amount of credits to earn.  

Not only is the class size a plus, but students are enamored by the Embarcadero branch. It is an unique space to learn in, where they have access to the pool and health programs that other high schools don’t. “I like to watch people swim and hang out on the rooftop,” Kiana said. Embarcadero Y is in the financial district and is a neutral territory for students who may join the program out of safety concerns from schools in other neighborhoods.  

Youth Chance’s method of teaching is applauded equally by parents. “Their way of teaching was in tune with how to make it easier to kids these days.” Mrs. Sterling, a 2020 graduate parent, continued, “they have outlets and options for them. The kids know they have rights.” She noticed her daughter’s comfort and growth while going to school at Youth Chance. Her daughter learned to build trust with the staff. Likewise, Kiana built her trust while also having a job. As a 2020 graduate, she is not hesitant about how much she enjoyed staff, admitting that she has no favorites because they were all so great.  

“They are already digital natives, so we were able to think outside the box with them and tie in their projects to relevant current events.”- Celan said, referring to the students' heightened engagement during Shelter-In-Place. They offer socially relevant projects to engage students. For example, watching Gente-fied on Netflix and then discussing gentrification within communities of color.  

Their Future is Our Future 

“Chance has made a huge positive impact on my child life in the past couple of years. She wants to go to college, and she’s leaning towards social work.”- Mrs. Sterling said.   

Classrooms within the Bayview, Buchanan, and Embarcadero YMCAs support the San Francisco Unified District to deploy a “circle of care” that re-engages truant youth, provides them a high school program targeted to their unique needs, connects students and families to a wealth of services and supports within and beyond the YMCA. They encourage students to develop and implement a personalized map to graduation.  

Chance graduates are excited this month. Kiana is searching for an outfit to wear for picking up her diploma and cap and gown. “It’s a good thing I’m getting my diploma. I doubted myself, but I made it. I graduated on my own time and my own pace.” She also knows what she wants to do, “I think I’ll go to college. I enjoy working with elderly. I helped my grandma, and I like old people.” She was quick to tell her advice to friends about Chance high school is “go to school. Education is important. You should get your diploma.” 

Mrs. Sterling says her daughter learned to manage her emotions. Her child started at Chance in 2018 and is now graduating. “Chance was a perfect fit for her. She’s that type of learner and leader. She could be herself there.” 

Congratulations to the graduating class of 2020! We want to thank our staff, the families of the students as well who have done all the work to make this possible. We hope the rest of the Y family can join us to celebrate their accomplishments.