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How Western Michigan University is helping students in foster care transition to college

Western Michigan University's Main Campus
user TheKuLeR
Wikimedia Commons

The odds are stacked against the more than 20,000 young people who age out of foster care each year. Nearly half drop out of high school, and those who make it to college rarely graduate.

Maddy Day, the director of outreach and training at the Center for Fostering Success at Western Michigan University, and Chris Harris, director of the Seita Scholars Program at Western, joined us to discuss how their programs are helping young people get into and graduate from college.

Day describes her role as helping to build bridges during transition points for students. The Outreach and Training Center for Fostering Success helps students cultivate connections with staff members or coaches at the college who can help guide them and act as a support system. 

The Seita Scholars Program also aims to aid students before they set foot on campus. Western Michigan's admissions takes note of students who have been in foster care and students who qualify are given information from the Seita Scholars Program on how to apply. Along with financial aid, the program brings students to campus for a week before classes start, allowing them to get acclimated with the area and settle in before the chaos of the first few weeks.

"Sudies show that when a person moves four times that they lose about one academic year of education preparation," says Harris, "and some of our students may have moved 10, 12, 15 or more times."

These challenges require additional support both academically and socially. The Center for Fostering Success attempts to aid all aspects of student's lives. Day says college is one of the first times some of these students are really able to think about and find their identity. The center's goals include encouraging students to develop and grow in aspects other than academics. 

Right now, 100% of Seita Scholars are on track to graduate.

"We recognize that we are just a stop on their path, but we have a chance to greatly impact their future," says Harris.

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