How Foster Kids Can Succeed in College!

How Foster Kids Can Succeed in College!

How Foster Kids Can Succeed in College! 1200 799 Best Foot Forward Foundation

3%. It’s a good number if you are looking at the risk of thunderstorms, not so good if you are looking at the college graduation rate for kids who grew up in foster care. In our short number of years doing the work we do, we have come to learn exactly why that 3% exists, and what it will take to change it. Some of the reasons are obvious:
• Financial struggles
• Transportation Issues
Some are not so obvious:
• Where do they live in between semesters?
• How do they eat in between semesters?
And some are much more complicated and related to the way they grew up and the trauma they experienced. We are finding ways to work through and around all the obstacles with our kids. Here is a first-hand account from our College Coach Karen Feigenbaum:

“I work with the college kids at BFF, all over 18 and considered “adults”. My texts and calls compete with their friends, jobs, and classes. It takes time to get a “buy in” from them; but when that connection happens, there is nothing quite like it. I get texts from excited students that they did well on an exam or they conquered their fear of speaking in front of the class. I’m saddened that they don’t have a mom or dad that they can share these accomplishments with but so happy and honored that they want to tell me. I tell the students laughingly that I am an “expert nagger”. I had one student text that he was “worried” about me because I hadn’t contacted him in a few days! It’s a job that can make your heart ache but also make your soul sing. All students experience their share of ups and downs in college. But for foster care kids in college, any bump, big or small, can lead them to possibly drop out of school while the “ups” can make you want to stand up and cheer.

This summer, BFF had 11 students at six different colleges in Florida. Most of them were freshmen. I work closely with the college advisers and our own BFF College Coordinator, Rosmery, to help each student navigate the college entrance process, from applications, essays, scholarships and financial aid to housing, meal plans, registration, and so much more. If you have ever gone through the college application and entrance process you know it is not easy, imagine doing it for eleven students!! When needed, we help students move into their dorms and supply them with linens, mini fridges, décor, school supplies, and whatever else necessary to make them feel like a typical college student. For many of these kids, it is an opportunity to be just like their peers for the very first time.

The students are excited but nervous to start school. One student told me, “I would be a lot more anxious if I didn’t have BFF!” I meet with them to go over class syllabi and assignment due dates. I text and call them each week to remind them about due dates, help edit a paper, arrange for a tutor or perhaps just to give them encouragement. And yes, there are bumps along the way. BFF tries to smooth them over so the students can concentrate on school. We learn that a student hadn’t yet gotten his financial aid and was living on candy! So we immediately asked for help with food donations from the community and delivered food to him until he could manage on his own. Another student had transportation issues and BFF figured out the best bus route and how to get a discounted bus pass. One student, who was taking an online class, had a computer virus and could not complete her assignments. BFF swooped in and got the computer fixed ASAP. I emailed several professors throughout the semester when necessary to apprise them of various circumstances so accommodations could be made. We even had a professor offer to provide furniture to a student who had nothing but a mattress!

BFF, with the help of the community, professors and so many more, all contribute to the success of these kids. As we always say, it truly takes a village! And in the end, though I would be thrilled if they just passed their classes, these amazing kids get a combined GPA of 3.4!!! Now that is an accomplishment that should make us all want to stand up and cheer!”