Shortly after being selected as the number one overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, Alex returned to San Diego. During this trip home he was invited to visit San Pasqual Academy, a residential school for foster teens whose football team had competed for the California Interscholastic Federation Championship that past fall, to speak to the team. After meeting and talking with students and staff, Alex realized just how important family support had been to him and that if foster teens were going to succeed as they moved into adulthood they would need similar support.
As Alex has often said, “When I was 18 heading off to college I had the support of family, coaches and a scholarship. I can’t imagine how we can expect foster teens to be successful when we say to them; you are now 18 and we are cutting you off—so go out and make it on your own.”
Forming his Foundation; Focus on Foster Youth
Following his visit to San Pasqual Academy, Alex met with individuals and leaders familiar with the foster care system, learning a great deal about the issues. This included a meeting with Antwone Fisher, noted author and screenwriter and former foster youth. Knowing that he wanted to help foster kids in some way, Alex brought together a select group of individuals with experience and expertise in many areas including business, community, politics and social welfare. As a result of this day of working with and hearing from these leaders, Alex decided to create his own foundation committed to efficiently helping foster youth in transition out of the system. The Foundation’s mission statement:
“The Alex Smith Foundation provides foster teens with the with tools and resources needed to transition to successful adulthood by developing and promoting Education, Advocacy, Mentoring, Housing, Internship and Job programs.”
Work in Progress
Alex has worked to realize the Foundation’s mission by:
- —Partnering with several agencies (San Diego State University, Stuart Foundation, Consensus Organizing Center, Andrus Family Fund and add others)
- —Developing and supporting new programs (Guardian Scholars Program, college classes for high school foster youth and others) through the Guardian Scholars Program, The Alex Smith Foundation has supported 23 former foster youths through college. (See Guardian Scholars Program page).
- —Advocating for system change before the California State Legislature and United States Congress.
The Alex Smith Foundation is looking forward to a new chapter in the Kansas City Community and partnering with Cornerstones of Care. Cornerstones of Care runs many programs serving foster youth. In particular, its Youth Educational Success Program (YES) was developed to address these barriers and increase the number of foster youths who attend and graduate from college. www.cornerstonesofcare.org
Why does our society spend billions of dollars on foster children only to abandon these kids when they're on the verge of becoming adults? It seems like we're dropping the ball at the goal line.
Within two years of leaving the system, why do:
Source: Children's Law Center of Los Angeles
At the Alex Smith Foundation, we don't believe in sitting along the sidelines, watching foster children fail. And, we're not as interested in asking "why?" as much as we are in asking, "How can we help?"