In 2016, local residents Patrick McCabe and Romi Lassally found themselves both asking the same question: what happens to foster students after they graduate college?

Only 3% of the over 400,000 foster youth in the US graduate college, and as McCabe and Lassally learned, there is little assistance available to help them transition to post-college life.

Brought together by a desire to support these students, they formed Ready To Succeed, a non-profit organization with the goal of providing support services to set foster students up for success upon graduation.

“Graduation day from college for foster youth is the greatest day of their life – they’ve overcome all these odds, it’s amazing,” McCabe said. “It’s also the worst day of their life – they lose their food, they lose their housing, they lose their mental health service and they lose their social circle.”

Starting with just six students, Lassally and McCabe – who both have extensive business experience – utilized their professional networks to help connect these students with internship and job opportunities after graduation.

“I said, let’s write down everyone we know who’s working and successful and we realized we had such deep benches and really deep networks that we wanted to leverage for good,” Lassally said.

Ready To Succeed now has close to 400 participants, a 16 person staff, has expanded to include first generation students as well and has added additional services to address their needs through a comprehensive program.

“There were all these kinds of things that we saw very clearly, that sort of had to be addressed,” McCabe said. “It wasn’t just about internships, a LinkedIn profile, and a placement at HBO, it was really more about mental health, transportation, or whatever else.”

He said they now have two volunteer therapists who work with the students regularly. Additionally, Lassally said they have opted for a proactive approach, meaning they start working with students years before they graduate, something she said not many schools currently offer.

“It’s not like an add-on when you’re a senior, you can’t wait that long,” she said. “It’s sophomore year, start thinking about it, with the goal of getting an internship that summer.”

Lassally and McCabe said the organization has been able to expand so significantly thanks to grants, partnerships and other donations and funding. Congressman Ted Lieu recently secured $1 million in federal funding for Ready To Succeed to help increase the program’s enrollment by 15%.

McCabe added that the model they have created is self sustaining. Many of the students who go through their program later act as career coaches and even sit on the organization’s board.

“Now they’re in their mid to late 20s, seven years later, and they are acting as the models and mentors for the students that are in college…” he said. “These kids are very successful, they’re at HBO, Lionsgate, Kayne Anderson – we’ve had students in all these places.”

“That part’s been great,” Lasally said. “We seeded the network, but they will become the network.”

To learn more about Ready To Succeed visit:

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Grace Adams

Grace Adams is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University where she studied Spanish and journalism. She holds a Master’s degree in investigative journalism from City, University of London. She has experience...