Chances are, you know of someone who’s graduating this month. Be it from high school or from college, having achieved the goal they set out to reach years ago, they stand at the start of life’s next adventure. What journey lies ahead? Growth, struggles, expanding points of view, challenges to status quo.
Standing at the mountain top, absorbing the journey, these are the ones who made it. Now is their time to celebrate, to reflect, to be proud of who they are becoming. But it’s a safe bet that they didn’t travel their journey alone. I would venture to say that all who stand proud on the podium had a system of support to help them through, and most likely it was Mom or Dad.
Those people we called when we felt alone in this big world. Who did you call when standing in front of the washing machine in the dorm room, suddenly wondering which goes in first, the clothes or the soap? Who did you call when your insides sank, holding the math test from your freshman math class, the one you struggled to keep up with? Most likely it was a parent on the receiving end of those phone calls. A parent who encouraged, calmed, supported, and just listened. Someone who told you to pick up the pieces and go on.
Kids in foster care often miss out on these opportunities. They are the numbers we don’t see, because they’re not visible; the ones we don’t hear about, because they are not recognized. The proverbial left-behind. Nationally, only 7% of students who leave foster care graduate college with an Associate Degree. Only 2% graduate with a Bachelor Degree. Why such dismal statistics?
Often, they lack the support networks we take for granted – parents, family, tutors, peers. Many children staying in care through youth have moved homes multiple times, disrupting a school year in which they were already falling behind due to neglect or abuse in the family home. It’s difficult to start down the next adventure trail when you are lacking the equipment of your fellow-hiker.
Fostering Great Ideas looks at Foster Care through the eyes of a child. We asked these students, “How can the statistics change?” We studied data from Greenville Tech, as well as from 4 national programs, and are now setting out to build a foundation of support for this specialized population.
We will focus on building a sense of family and belonging among the students, building academic excellence through high quality tutors, and establishing fellowship learning opportunities, all in partnership with Greenville Tech and Social Services.
In other words, we’ll strive to be the support system other college students take for granted when they call Mom or Dad on a Sunday evening, seeking the encouragement to get them through the week ahead. We call this program College Fellows. It was made possible by a generous grant from Greenville Women Giving and it is the first program of its kind in South Carolina. We are seeking to make a difference in the lives of children who have experienced foster care, and we are seeking to help them reach dreams for their futures.
Enjoy the beauty of graduation this month. A time of gratitude, family, and endless possibilities. Join us, also, as we give students from foster care the same for their journey.
David White is Founder and CEO of Fostering Great Ideas, a charity dedicated to improving the lives of children as they struggle in foster care. Fostering Great Ideas was a 2015 recipient of the S.C. Secretary of State’s “Angel Charities” award and can be found at fgi4kids.org. David is at firstname.lastname@example.org.