Merced College celebrated the grand opening today of the NextUp Center to support current and former foster youth under the age of 26.  Merced College was one of 45 community colleges to receive a NextUp grant from California Community Colleges in the amount of $643,840 to establish the program which offers support and resources including academic and vocational counseling, meal and gas cards, educational supplies, and more. 

Cutting the ribbon was Merced County Judge Donald Proietti. “This program serves a great purpose for some of our most vulnerable citizens.  Their success is our success,” Proietti said. “NextUp recognizes that not every student will get their degree in 4 years.  This program supports students through the age of 26 which can be life changing.”

Merced College student and former foster youth Myrandah Hernandez spoke of her experience. “Some of us have a tragic beginning in life, a crippling disadvantage that leaves us without one or both parents causing us to bounce from place to place, uncertain of our future,” she said.  “Most times you get unstable teenagers that age into unstable adults and the vicious cycle continues.”

Hernandez plans to transfer to CSU Stanislaus after completing her Associates degree in Psychology at Merced College. The services and support offered by the NextUp Center is key to her academic success. “With the resources available, I know I have no excuse to not be successful,” Hernandez said.

Makalynn Christman, also a Merced College student and former foster youth, spoke of the support she receives from the center. “We are all a part of NextUp. NextUp for good times. NextUp to get that degree and graduate. NextUp to succeed and be happy,” she said.

The students spoke to a packed crowd which included community partners, current students and alumni. The grand opening included a tour of the NextUp Center followed by lunch.

The NextUp Center currently serves 63 foster youth students at Merced College.

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For more information on Merced College’s NextUp Center, please visit http://www.mccd.edu/resources/nextup or contact Estelina Jones, Acting Director of NextUp Program at Merced College, at 209-489-1081.