“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” –Malcom X
This quote comes to mind as I think about all of the amazing young people I have the privilege to see move forward with their educational and career goals. Whether it is the elementary student who is connected with a perfect tutor to help them catch up with their peers, a high school senior who learns they have been accepted to all of the universities they applied to, or it's the new college graduate who lands the job of their dreams! Each one of the students we serve overcome many obstacles to reach their goals!
This year, we celebrated 37 high school graduates, 30 of which will be heading off to college this fall! We also had five of our youth complete their Bachelor’s degree this year, all of whom have secured full-time employment related to their degree! To give you a little perspective on how well our youth are doing, the national average for foster youth who graduate high school is at 50%; our foster youth boast an 88% high school graduation rate!
I recently had a conversation with some community members who were inquiring about the value placed on education over employment in youth programs. It was through this conversation that I had the opportunity to share some insights into the different facets of education, and how increased education leads to higher levels of self-sufficiency and lower levels of system dependence in the long run. You see, education is not limited to a formalized, structured, degree-earned avenue. I see education as being an intentional journey to expand one’s understanding of the world and to take initiative to progress forward, toward identified goals. Within our Education Support Services, we offer opportunities for young people to expand their life skill development, which increases their opportunity for success; develop job readiness skills and get help navigating the workplace, which builds their vocational experience and introduces them to future possibilities; they can also be matched with career mentors who are professionals working in careers they want to learn more about; and they can receive tutoring, which increases their potential to excel in all they set out to accomplish. Lastly, we also offer formalized support to assist youth while they pursue either a vocational certificate or college degree with the goal of successfully launching into the workforce. Each of the services we provide work to meet the individual needs of those we serve--helping them to overcome academic and personal obstacles, and set and obtain realistic goals.
I want to share with you about one of our youth served through our Educational Services. Mandy had been in foster care for several years, which impacted her academically throughout her school years. As her senior year of high school progressed, it became starkly apparent that she had fallen very far behind in her credits, and there was little hope that she would be able to graduate with her peers; one of her biggest goals. Through supportive collaboration, involving Mandy, her FCNI team, school counselors and teachers, dedicated foster parents, and a committed tutor, Mandy’s dedication to graduate translated into real effort which resulted in her progressing by leaps and bounds! While they had to wait until the very last minute--when Mandy’s final grades were posted in June, she and her team finally exhaled--she had PASSED! Mandy would receive her high school diploma and she’d get to do so with her class.
Mandy is one of our 37 high school graduates who we’re celebrating with this summer. What a privilege it is to see such determination in action from all of our students. These youth have overcome so many obstacles to make their dreams come true! Congratulations!