GRASS VALLEY, CA, April 1 — Nevada County’s Office of Education won a FAFSA Challenge Award today, further improving the chances that Nevada County foster youth who are seniors in high school will go to college.

            Nevada won the Very Small-sized County category of the California Foster Youth FAFSA Challenge, a statewide effort to improve access to college for foster youth by helping them fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The Nevada County Office of Education today received a $500 award from John Burton Advocates for Youth during a lunch-time ceremony at the Foster Youth Education Summit at the Hyatt Regency in Sacramento.

            One hundred percent of Nevada County’s high school seniors in foster care completed the application.

            Now in its second year, the FAFSA Challenge, is led by John Burton Advocates for Youth (, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization founded by retired state Senator John Burton. It is the only coordinated effort in California specifically designed to reach foster youth and help them apply for student aid.  The FAFSA Challenge effort receives funding from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Walter S. Johnson Foundation, the Stuart Foundation, and the Tipping Point Community.

            “Nevada County has done a great job of opening the doors of higher education to the most vulnerable and making their college dreams come true,” Burton said. “The county has been a leader in its efforts to reach high school seniors in foster care, and the completion rate in the county shows it.  I congratulate Nevada County on their success and the hard work its staff did to make a huge difference in the lives of these students.”

            JBAY Project Director Debbie Raucher said “foster youth have historically submitted the FAFSA at a significantly lower rate than that of the general student population. About 60 percent of non-foster youth in California complete the FAFSA annually, but difficulties in identifying and reaching foster youth through traditional campaigns have kept them from applying for financial aid.”

            “Research shows students who complete the FAFSA are more likely to go on to college, but millions of students eligible for financial aid do not fill out the FASFA – leaving bills on the table and their potential unfulfilled,” said Yali Lincroft, Program Director for the Walter S. Johnson Foundation. “The FAFSA Challenge is a call to action for counties throughout the state to support the interests of these vulnerable youth on the cusp of adulthood. Furthermore, even in a densely populated and philanthropically wealthy state like California, rural counties have largely been underserved by philanthropy. We are pleased to celebrate and support Nevada County’s accomplishment in winning the FAFSA Challenge.”

            The winners also included Tulare in the Small County category, Fresno in the Medium-sized County category, San Bernardino for Large County, and Placer for the Most Improved County over last year, a new award category this year. All the winners were honored today at the Foster Youth Education Summit in Sacramento. Counties were placed in categories based on the number of foster youth who are high school seniors rather than the county’s population.