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Consensus Organizing Center
Programs: GET

Watch the GET EMPOWERED Video!


Empower low-income young adults and former youth in foster care transitioning into adulthood to achieve their dreams and strengthen their communities.


Communities and young adults that mutually invest in one another.


Purpose Statement
Get Empowered Today (GET) participants will obtain post-secondary education (vocational, community college, and four year universities), employment, become financially savvy, make healthy choices, and build meaningful relationships. Participants will be equipped with the skillset to obtain these goals as they learn interdependent living skills to interface with available social resources. Reciprocity is the undercurrent and ultimate lesson of GET, teaching young people and their community to be invested in one another.


GET is a program of the Consensus Organizing Center at San Diego State University. The Consensus Organizing Center works to develop grass-roots community leaders through education and training in the Consensus Organizing model. This method focuses on developing areas of mutual self-interest between community stakeholders. Since 1999, The Consensus Organizing Center has remained a strong influence in the San Diego community and has developed many successful initiatives using the Consensus Organizing Model.


GET’s inaugural program year will begin at the Heartland Coalition Youthbuild Charter School in City Heights. Community co-taught instruction will take place during school hours for 50 minutes, followed by after school lessons and community field sites ranging from 1-2 hours. The GET curriculum differentiates itself from traditional Independent Living Skills (ILS) curriculums in that it pairs practical life skills with hands-on learning at community field sites. These skills are taught in an intersectional approach that recognizes that almost all aspects of life interdependently affect one another. For example, the curriculum recognizes that healthy eating is more than just a matter of knowing food groups. The ability to eat a healthy meal also intersects with finance, shopping skills and time management, as each of these things play major factors in the decision between choosing fast food and buying and preparing groceries for a home cooked meal. Such lessons are taught in conjunction with members of the local community, as they are best suited to providing relevant and accessible local knowledge to GET’s participants; furthermore, this creates a mutually beneficial reciprocity between local community entities and businesses, and the youth who live there.


Reciprocity is the cornerstone of GET’s model and approach. In a structured setting, community members impart their expertise and participants are later offered to experience hands-on learning, putting into practice what they were just taught. For example, a local bank agent will come into the classroom to teach about bank accounts and basic finance, and this will be followed by a trip to the bank to see how accounts are opened and to give the students an opportunity to open an account of their own. Similarly, a local yoga instructor will come in to speak about mindfulness and balance, followed by a trip to the yoga studio to see how to put those techniques into practice. Through this learning approach relationships are built between young adults and their community, and both experience mutual support and benefit.


In addition to community support, participants will identify individuals in their lives that GET will train to encourage and advocate for them. Through this network of internal and community support, young adults will also have the support to chase after their dreams and turn them into reality.


By partnering with existing businesses and professionals in the community, GET’s program model is sustainable and replicable in other communities. Heartland Coalition’s YouthBuild Charter School is the first of many educational hubs for GET. YouthBuild Charter School is a competency based dropout recovery school rooted in social justice, for students between the ages of 16 and 24, who come from low-income families and underserved communities and have previously left or have been pushed out of the traditional school system without a diploma.


Life After Foster Care
There are approximately 6,500 youth in the foster care system in San Diego County. Each year about 300 of these individuals turn 18 and “age out” of the system leaving them with little support.

  • 65% of former foster youth leave the system without a place to live
  • 44% of all young adults in the US came from a low income background in 2008
  • Less than 50% of former foster youth are employed 2.5 – 4 years after leaving foster care
  • Only 1 – 3% of former foster youth will attend and graduate from college
  • Former foster youth are more susceptible to using hard drugs with 56% reporting using hard drugs upon their discharge
  • 60% of former foster youth are destitute, earning at or below $6,000 per year
  • One in four former foster youth become incarcerated


Our Partners

We are currently piloting the program through Heartland Coalition’s YouthBuild charter school where all of the participants will be attendees attempting to earn their GED. YouthBuild is a national organization that has 273 programs in 46 states and over 10,000 students that targets low-income young adults ages 16-24 providing them with classes to earn their GED. The school also provides a comprehensive educational approach by working with the students to help develop affordable housing in their neighborhood. Therefore promoting community engagement while at the same time teaching real life job skills.



Consensus Organizing Center » History. (2014, January 1). Retrieved September 5, 2014, from


Foster Care Statistics Show Huge Need for VOICES. (2012, January 1). Retrieved September 5, 2014, from


Our Vision & Mission. (2014, January 1). Retrieved September 5, 2014, from


YouthBuild Programs. (2014, January 1). Retrieved September 5, 2014, from


Frost, S. (2011, July 1). Social capital and well-being: Churchill Travelling Fellowship 2011…and beyond! Retrieved September 12, 2014, from

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