Every year 5-8% of youth in the United States experience homelessness, resulting in high costs to these youth and to society as a whole, especially if youth homelessness extends into adulthood. The majority of youth experiencing homelessness do not complete high school.
Rachel Peterson at the Homeless Youth Resource Center implemented a pilot program of the Next Step Program successfully in two groups in 2011 and 2012. The first group was held in October – November 2011, the second in February – March of 2012. A total of sixteen youth participated in the pilot program with eight in each of the two groups.
In 2013 Rachel Peterson founded the Cache Youth Resource Center in Logan, Utah in coordination with OUTreach Resource Centers. Following her successful introduction of the Streets to Scholars program at the Cache Youth Resource Center, Rachel introduced the program to the OUTreach Resource Centers Board of Directors which agreed to implement the program at all other drop-in centers operated by OUTreach Resource Centers.
The Next Step Program is designed to encourage underserved youth to access post-secondary education and engage in long-term education and career planning. This program attempts to fill the current gaps in support for underserved youth by developing tools and skills that can help facilitate a supportive environment where positive relationships with educators and engagement in strengths-based curricula will foster the development of self-efficacy, while also providing participants with specific knowledge and skills related to engagement and success in post-secondary education and career training.
Because obtaining a career of interest and productivity is currently highly dependent upon earning a high school diploma and engaging in some form of post-secondary education or training, it is important that underserved youth receive the supports that they need to succeed academically. No empirically-supported, organized curriculum currently exists that can be used by school personnel to address the goal of transitioning underserved students from academic disengagement to high school completion and further along the educational road to post-secondary education.