WESTWOOD (CBSLA.com) — Learning how to cook healthy meals is just one of the life lessons taught at an innovative program at UCLA.

The program is aimed at foster youth, kids who might normally be ignored by the system.

Here, they systematically learn everything a young person needs to succeed in life. And the ultimate goal, to get these kids into college.

Well-known philanthropist and movie producer Peter Samuelson is the brainchild of “The First Star UCLA Bruin Guardian Scholars Summer Academy,” which began last year.

“Only 3 percent of foster youth end up with a 4-year degree. There’s no good reason for it. It’s not their fault. They’re no more or less intelligent than any of the half-a-million American youth,” he told CBS2’s Amy Johnson.

The 29 teens will spend the next four summers at UCLA. The students will live on campus for four to five weeks while working on academics and learning life skills. They will also earn college credit.

“It seemed like it was a marriage made in heaven. The capacity to come together and create a program that would focus on academic preparation and readiness for foster youth,” said UCLA Vice-Chancellor Janina Montero.

A similar academy exists in Rhode Island and a future program is planned for next year in Washington, D.C. Samuelson’s goal is to create 100 academies in 10 years.

“We’re going to change the face of foster care,” he said. “We’re going to get these kids into university and they’re going to be doctors and business people and singers and dancers and architects and all the rest of it.”


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