At Wednesday’s Escondido City Council meeting Frank Foster, executive director of “A Step Beyond,” gave an update on this program for at risk children. The program is based in offices at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. “A Step Beyond” is just finishing its first year in Escondido.
Foster formerly a banker and homebuilder with two decades of working with non-profits, is now working at a non-profit serving at risk youth.
During his presentation Foster thanked Councilwoman Olga Diaz for introducing him to the Center a year and a half ago. This event led to “A Step Beyond” opening its offices at the Center shortly thereafter.
Foster praised the staff at the Center “for making the journey a lot easier than it might have been.”
“A Step Beyond is modeled after the Wooden Floor in Santa Ana,” which serves four hundred at risk youths. “The success is amazing!” said Foster. “One hundred percent of their students graduate on time and enroll in college. Today wooden floor has 160 alumni in colleges. We will offer the same programs and expect the same results.”
Foster showed a short video to the council. “A Step Beyond” has its foundation in modern, contemporary dance instruction. Currently they are assisting third and fourth graders, but each year will add grade levels until they reach 12th grade. They also provide academics assistance and tutoring. They are just completing a summer program.
“As they get older we will do more for them,” said Foster. “We are adding a staff member to work with crises children and parents. As we work with them kids mature and grow, with self-confidence and self-esteem. The program makes them well rounded.”
The great majority of the children served by “A Step Beyond” will be the first in their families to attend college, and often the first to finish high school.
The program just finished its first year with 35 third and fourth graders. Almost all will return in September. “Eighty-five percent of our children improved, some dramatically,” he said. “The only requirement for them to be a member is to have a desire to be there and to have a low income. It’s completely free. Our goal is for these young people to finish high school, to be introduced to career opportunities and for most of them to finish college.”
In October “A Step Beyond” will fan out to seven local schools and hold auditions to add new students. This October they plan to add 35 new students in addition to the 35 who will continue on from last year.
Foster described the peopleand the board of directors of the program as
“all having a passion for working with at risk youth. We’ve all been able to enjoy careers and we want to see other kids enjoy those opportunities.”
Right now funding comes from the board of directors, a grant from San Diego Gas & Electric and Switchfoot the band. “We don’t have any funding from the local community, but we are making inroads,” he said.
Foster invited members of the council and the city to come visit the program.
The program will open on September 14 and on October 17 will begin holding auditions at the seven schools.
“If this is something that strikes your heart you can help us by letting people know we are here. We would love for more people to get to know about us,” said Foster.
Council member Ed Gallo asked about the selection process. Foster explained that auditions would be held at seven schools during a two-week period. Third and fourth graders will be pulled from class and invited to the auditions. “It’s a heart breaking day,” said Foster. “Our first audition last year was attended by one hundred and twenty students.”
“A Step Beyond” provides a rigorous academic curriculum for all its students. Every child has access to one-on-one tutoring, a computer lab, a resource library, and an on-going reading program. Students whose GPA falls below a specified threshold are additionally supported through mandatory, student-centered tutoring programs with emphasis on reading, math, science, and technology.
All students attend dance classes up to six days a week provided by professional dance faculty and many class are accompanied by live musicians.
Students work with internationally recognized choreographers and designers, and have the chance to perform in a variety of professional settings.
Nationally recognized dance companies and artists hold master classes and workshops, engage in residencies at the Center, and students have opportunities to attend special summer dance programs.
“A Step Beyond’s” philosophy is that in order to best serve a child, it must also serve and support their family. So family involvement is integral to the program’s success. Through engaging parents on topics such as nutrition, education, youth development, and college and career readiness, parents create a culture of academic and artistic achievement within the home.
As families engage in community dance and art experiences, families experience a healthier, stronger bond with each other. In critical matters, students and parents also have the opportunity to partake in individual counseling and guidance, which includes in-house crisis intervention and case management services.