City College NextUp gifts students with ‘the birthday (they) never had’

Former and current foster youth honored with a birthday celebration


Guests at the NextUp birthday party smiled for the camera in a photo booth

Shamere Grimes, Multimedia Journalist

Imagine growing up as a child, seeing other kids have birthday parties, but not having one of your own.

For many former and current foster youth, this is a reality.

Selam Gebrekristos, the coordinator/counselor for the NextUp program at San Diego City College, threw a big birthday bash for former foster youth enrolled at the school.

The Dec. 8 event was “the birthday (they) never had,” she said.

The room was covered in balloons and decorations of multiple colors. Laughter filled the room as students played party games like pin the tail on the donkey and enjoyed a photo booth, food, drinks, and most notably, a birthday cake. 

NextUp is a supplemental program designed to support the educational goals and well-being of current and former foster youth, according to the City College website. It provides eligible students with additional support beyond programs like Extended Opportunity Programs and Services, or EOPS.  

EOPS is a state-funded student support services program. Its purpose is to provide special recruitment, retention and transition services to eligible students.

The primary services include assistance with priority enrollment, as well as counseling and preparation for transition to four-year colleges and universities.

Monique Dunn was one of the former foster youth who attended the birthday bash. She is a psychology major at City College with a goal of transferring to a four-year university.

“As I got older and I really knew what I wanted to do,” she said.

Charlene “Charlie” Sebastian, another former foster youth and student at City College, took center stage with her singing of the karaoke version of “Fallin’” by Alicia Keys.

Joining the party were City College President Ricky Shabazz and Daisy Gonzales, the interim chancellor of the California Community Colleges.

Gonzales, herself a former foster youth, made a point to speak to nearly everyone in attendance.

The party ended like every birthday party should – with presents.

Each guest received a gift and walked away with smiles on their faces.