Fostering STARS Program enlightens
May is National Foster Care Awareness month and LCC’s Fostering STARS Program, which became active in August 2015, exists to help foster care youth succeed not only in school, but in life.
According to J. Munley, Fostering STARS Program co-coordinator and life skills coach, 50 percent of foster care youth graduate from high school. Of those, 20 percent go to college and the college graduation rate is a staggering 3 percent.
Fostering STARS, located behind Campus Resources in the Gannon Building Star Zone, is designed to assist students who were in foster care overcome the statistics. It does this by offering support and connecting students with resources to help them succeed in college.
The program is one of the first of its kind at the community college level, Munley said.
“We try to create a support network throughout the college with financial aid and the advisers, and the CSR in the Star Zone,” said Carrie Gregg, Fostering STARS Program co-coordinator and life skills coach. “We try to create a network so that the students that we work with have an easier time navigating the college system and are less likely to fall through the cracks.”
Munley and Gregg meet with students in the Fostering STARS Program face-to-face on a regular basis depending on the level of need, according to Gregg.
Face-to-face meetings are held monthly at minimum, but they are also connected through email, texting, Facebook and other means of communication.
In addition to college navigation, students are taught life skills such as financing, job-hunting, time management, getting a checking account and more. Fostering STARS even has a fund called, “Specific Assistance.” It allows for $300 per student per year that can be used for rent, food, clothing for job interviews or any other needs the student may have, according to Gregg.
“All of our students’ goals, when they articulate their goal for school, that becomes our goal,” Munley said.
“Their goal is our goal and we want to help them be successful in whatever that means; even if it means there is a point where maybe they feel like school isn’t for them. Even in that, we want to help them transition to whatever that will be.”
The Fostering STARS Program also allows students to experience “Emersion Days” as a group, such as going to sporting events, in an effort to provide the students with opportunities they may not normally have, Munley said.
Fostering STARS is a free, voluntary program, according to Gregg. Eligible students include those who have experienced foster care after their 14th birthday and are between the ages of 14 and 21.
Authorization from the Department of Health and Human Services is also needed, as the student’s foster care case must have been supervised by the department.
According to Gregg, the program currently serves 14 students, but can accommodate 25. Dually enrolled students are also eligible.
“I believe that programs like this are important because when students come to college for the first time, they really don’t know what to expect,” said Raven Jones, Fostering STARS support services specialist and former foster care youth. “I think these programs are important because they’re helping students who don’t necessarily have anyone in their corner; they’re helping them to succeed in college.”
For info about Fostering STARS, students may stop by the Campus Resources desk, contact Carrie Gregg at (517) 483-1028 or J. Munley at (517) 483-1051. Or visit www.lcc.edu/supportservices/fosteringstars/