Technology company HopSkipDrive provides key transportation support to help students in foster care prepare for college

Student transportation technology firm HopSkipDrive and First Star, an advocacy organization for high-school-aged teens in foster care, are partnering to provide transportation for students in foster care to attend the First Star Arizona State University Academy

Launched in 2011 at UCLA, First Star Academies offer a long-term college-prep program for high school students in foster care to participate in immersive residential summers on university campuses and monthly sessions during the school year. The academies focus on education, life skills, and caregiver engagement to keep scholars on track for graduation and higher education. 

The program expanded in 2023 to include First Star Arizona State University Academy. 

Replicating the model it began in 2019 at the First Star UCLA Bruin Guardian Scholars Academy, HopSkipDrive in 2023 began providing transportation for students living in foster care to attend the ASU program. 

Founded in 2014, HopSkipDrive set out to work with parents to help get kids safely to where they need to go every day. Ten years later, the company is now leveraging its sophisticated software to advise school leaders in 13 states and more than 600 school districts on how to address their student transportation challenges. 

According to the 2023 State of School Transportation survey research by HopSkipDrive, 92% of respondents reported that a shortage of bus drivers constrained their operations. More than 65% of respondents said their district had issues with chronic absenteeism, and more than 74% said they saw a correlation between access to transportation and student attendance.

HopSkipDrive’s network of vetted caregivers help fill the transportation gap for students who cannot easily access existing services, including young people experiencing homelessness, who typically have rates of absenteeism. 

HopSkipDrive helps to ensure that students can consistently participate in the First Star program if transportation issues would otherwise prevent their attendance. 

The First Star ASU Academy engages high school students in a variety of learning opportunities including earning college credit for academic coursework, SAT and ACT prep, independent study, and a two-week residential summer experience. 

During their time with the academy, students will also be able to participate in cultural and social activities such as field trips, recreational events, service learning, and caregiver workshops.

Additionally, students will receive education advocacy and individualized support throughout the academic year via monthly Saturday Academies. 

Students can be nominated to participate in the ASU academy by caregivers, social workers, schools, legal representatives, and community agencies. Students can also self-nominate with adult input. Students must have at least a 2.0 GPA and a good attendance record in the current and previous school year to be considered. 

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