Bright Futures Ahead for College-Bound Foster Youth
ParentMap and Carter Subaru have partnered with Treehouse to bring readers information about and perspectives of those impacted by foster care. This month: Bright Futures Ahead for College-Bound Foster Youth.
Friday, May 17, 2013 was no ordinary day for 50 Washington youth in foster care. They were atop Seattle’s tallest building receiving Washington State Governors’ Scholarships for Foster Youth from Governor Jay Inslee, State Representative Reuven Carlyle and former Governor Mike Lowry. The coveted scholarship recognizes the long, often difficult journey that foster youth take to higher education, and helps them earn a college degree, paving a path to a bright future.
Don, a Treehouse youth and Governors’ Scholarship recipient, certainly understands all about long, difficult journeys. When he first went into foster care, he had been out of school for six years and had been diagnosed with social phobia due to isolation in his home. He entered school as a 10th grader with little exposure to the world and had a difficult time envisioning what tomorrow would hold, much less his future post graduation. He initially resisted the support of an Independent Living Program due to his social anxiety, and when Treehouse Education Specialist Shelby offered her services, he wasn’t sure how his future trajectory could change with her help.
Education Specialists like Shelby are the driving force behind Graduation Success, a Treehouse program providing every middle and high school youth in foster care in our community with the resources and education planning, monitoring, coaching and support services that all kids need to graduate and thrive. They partner with social workers, caregivers and educators to create a portrait of each foster youth’s needs. They also work together with each student to create a student-centered plan defining the student’s educational needs and aspirational goals building each youth’s investment in their future.
When Shelby first looked at Don’s case file, she saw that the post-graduation goal listed was to be a janitor. After speaking with his teachers and meeting with him, Shelby knew that this extremely private youth was quite bright despite his lack of formal schooling. She had also learned that he had a hidden talent for fiction writing. “He was missing an opportunity to strive for something greater based on his own dreams and strengths. He was selling himself short,” shared Shelby. With encouragement from Shelby and his teacher, and affirmation that he was indeed talented, he finally voiced his dream to become a writer.
Shelby started working with Don on a Student Centered Plan that would help him map out exactly what he would need to do to achieve this goal. The first step was getting him reengaged with the Independent Living Program. He started working with a coordinator to learn money management skills and how to find and secure housing. Shelby took him to visit local community colleges to expand his knowledge base and to ensure he was making informed decisions about his future. Once his interest in pursuing a college degree was piqued, she helped him apply for the Governors’ Scholarship so that he would have the financial support he needed to pursue his dream.
Now, with his high school diploma and Governors’ Scholarship in hand, Don plans to attend Shoreline Community College to earn a certificate in writing and directing for the camera. He acknowledges that it might not be the most practical degree for financial success, but fiction writing is his career aspiration. “I’m not putting my dream in the back seat because I can’t be satisfied without it,” stated Don. He will be attending the College Success Foundation’s Make It Happen program in July 2013 and through his own initiative, Don completed skills training through Goodwill and has a part-time job that he will keep while attending school.
Treehouse makes a difference in the lives of thousands of Washington foster kids by helping with school, fulfilling key material needs. Learn more about Treehouse and the essential services and programs the organization provides for kids in foster care and how you can help give foster kids a childhood and a future.
Treehouse and other local nonprofit organizations supporting youth in foster care rely on the generous contributions of the community to make their programs possible. Treehouse is 90% privately funded and relies on the support of more than 7,000 donors every year.