- Associated Press - Sunday, May 14, 2017

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Grand Valley State University is joining other higher education institutions in Michigan in efforts to increase the success rate of foster care students by providing greater support.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Service awarded GVSU a three-year, $375,000 grant to establish a new initiative this fall, Fostering Lake Success. The grant will pay for a life skills coach who will support up to 25 students who have experienced foster care and six student mentors.

MLive (https://bit.ly/2pkZhPy ) reports that Grand Valley joins a coalition of 14 other college and universities statewide that have support systems in place to help the population through the statewide initiative, “Fostering Success Michigan.”

“The grant is going to allow for more robust programming,” said Sharalle Arnold, associate director of the Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity. “The key piece of this initiative is giving students specific points of contact and support services to get them to and through college.”

More than 80 percent of the population aspires to attend college but only 20 percent graduate from college, according to GVSU citing reports from Fostering Success Michigan.

Arnold, one of the grant writers, said the new initiative is comprehensive, offering both social and academic support, as well as career development and other opportunities to equip young people with the skills to navigate life successfully.

The Fostering Laker Success life skills coach and student mentors are expected to be hired and trained by August. The initiative will be housed in the Center for Women and Gender Equity.

Jesse Bernal, vice president for Inclusion and Equity, said the initiative enhances the university’s commitment to creating a welcoming campus where all students can thrive.

“This grant provides opportunities to support students in transition from foster care, and enhances the support already provided on campus by Student Services, Enrollment Development, and Inclusion and Equity for this community and others,” Bernal said.

According to some most recent research, less than 10 percent of foster youth graduate from college.

The grant was written to support up to 25 students who are 20 and younger, and who have experienced foster care since they were 14 years old.

Marnie Parris-Bingle, academic advisor for TRIO Student Support Services, said there are about 6,300 youth ages 18-25 in Michigan who have experience with foster care.

“Some youth in foster care can move up to eight times, which can bring a set of issues when they’re ready to transition to college,” said Parris-Bingle, who co-authored the grant

More than 20,000 young people that states failed to reunite with their families or place in permanent homes aged out of foster care at 18 every year. In Michigan, there are nearly 13,000 children in foster care.

On Thursday, June 22, the third annual Fostering Futures Scholarship Benefit Dinner will be held at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. Donations will help provide scholarships for foster care youth who have enrolled at Michigan colleges and universities.


Information from: The Grand Rapids Press:MLive.com, https://www.mlive.com

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