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Wake Tech helps former foster kids complete college

Posted April 2, 2009

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— As Monica Armstrong navigates her way through her second semester at Wake Technical Community College, she is missing one thing that many of her fellow students enjoy – support from parents.

A new program that started this year is helping Armstrong and other former foster care children like her who want to get a college education.

Wake Tech oversees the program, called “Fostering Bright Futures,” which provides tutors, career counselors and life coaches to the former foster kids. The program also assists students with housing, transportation and other living and education-related expenses.

Stephanie Lake, director of development for the Wake Tech Foundation Wake Tech helps foster kids complete college

“They give you every resource there is. If you don’t know about it, you will know about it,” said Armstrong, who aged out of foster care and is on her own.

Most former foster children qualify for financial aid to attend college. The program fills in the gaps by providing money for necessities such as rent or gas.

“They come to us with their needs,” said Stephanie Lake, director of development for the Wake Tech Foundation. “Sometimes, there’s a book need, so we'll coordinate if the book’s not here on campus. It may just be that we order it on Amazon.com or something like that.”

The project’s goal is to remove barriers that keep students from concentrating on their education.

“This isn’t a situation where you’re throwing money at the problem,” Lake said. “You’re really one-on-one addressing each individual youth’s needs.”

The majority of foster care teenagers end up in jail, homeless or pregnant, according to Virginia Parker, a “Fostering Bright Futures" committee member.

National statistics show that fewer than 10 percent of traditional college-aged children emerging from foster care enroll in post-secondary education, and 2 percent graduate, according to Wake Tech officials.

“What this program’s doing is allowing them .. what they end up with is an education experience that provides them with a degree or skill,” she said.

Armstrong said she is working to become a pharmacist.

“I love dealing with medicine and people,” she said.

Four former foster children, including Armstrong, are in the program. Six more plan to join in the 2009-10 school year. Several businesses support the program financially, according to Wake Tech. Multiple-year commitments to the program total nearly $600,000, according to the school’s Web site.

Wake County Human Services nominates students for the Fostering Bright Futures Program. For information, please email HCD@co.wake.nc.us. Please be sure to include your full name and any specific questions you have about eligibility.

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  • ctechic2004 Apr 3, 2009

    It never amazes me how people can pick apart a good story. to the person who said that this young lady is driving a nice car and wear expensive clothes, do you know that her clothes are expensive and that she bought them? Do you know how she was able to buy a nice car. Do you feel that just because she was a foster child and receiving assistance towards her education that she must wear torn and outdated clothes and drive a jalopy of a car. This young lady could be also working a full time job.

    People should get off their self righteous attitude and enjoy a good story when given.

  • vcalloway Apr 2, 2009

    The program does not provide free or reduced tuition. Most former foster kids qualify for that kind of assistance already. As the story mentions, it fills in gaps by helping with things like rent and gas so that the students aren't trying to work full time and go to school full time.

  • honestyisthebest Apr 2, 2009

    Phrostbite- I am raising a child that is DEEMED by the STATE of NC an orphan! As I stated my Father and his sisters and brothers were foster children and moved from homes to institutions all their lives. I also stated "(not all)" people are like her, there are people who deserve this. I know all too well the physical abandoment, financial stress, emotional problems. I grew up with a Father that was not home much, a brother with physical and mental handicaps, a Mother that was more into herself than her children and on top of that I had and still have a major learning disability myself! Wake Tech is more into getting into the news and helping people to get the media attention, adults like me who go to school daily, 3.5 GPA, and mentor get no Free or Reduced tuition or books. Before you judge me ask about my childhood and my life. By the way about state funding pell covers 100% books, materials, tuition, and expenses, which foster, orphan, people in the income guidelines, transportation.

  • Phrostbite Apr 2, 2009

    lilred27587

    Your comments generalize all four of the former foster kids to be like the girl in your class & that's not right. You will never understand the difficulties & scars these kids have unless you are one or have worked with one.

    They have a lot of abandonment issues that take a long time to overcome. That's emotional, financial, & physical abandonment. When the state has revoked parental rights, they are in essence becoming the childs "parent", which makes them responsible for their education.

    This program simply fulfills the needs the state doesn't cover. Now if you'd rather have no family & a free education, you are a braver than most of us.

    If not, be quiet & be thankful for a loving family!

  • honestyisthebest Apr 2, 2009

    I almost went through my roof when I saw this story on the news. Yes this is great to help foster kids I am all about that considering my father was a foster child. I am an Adult Wake Tech Student and let me tell you these (not all) people that are getting these free educations are wearing the most expensive clothes, most expensive phones, and drive cars most people can not afford. You ask how do I know? It is because I see the everyday and the woman that was on the news is one of them, I have classes with her! Someone who is like me that did not come from money and we live from paycheck to paycheck, married, and have children cannot not get a free education! What is even worse people getting pell checks reimbursed go to classes long enough to get the refund checks and quit, then the next semester do the same thing again and again. Ask some of the instructors at Wake Tech and they can vouch for every single word I am saying. This is a JOKE!!

  • edith wharton Apr 2, 2009

    It's so nice to hear good news. As the parent of a college-aged young person and two teenagers, it is heartbreaking to think that there are children with absolutely no one on whom they can depend.

    It's easy when you have a family and emotional support to disparage efforts to help those who don't. I'm sure if any of us were in the position these kids are in, we would be grateful for any assistance we could get. I would not begrudge them my tax dollars. Taking care of "the least of these" is what I am called to do, as well as rendering "unto Caesar what is Caesar's".

  • Leeca Apr 2, 2009

    maydaymanny - As the other poster said, once these kids turn 18, they are on their own. If they have not been adopted by their foster family by that point, the foster family is probably not going to be much support to them once they are out. It's unfortunate but true. Think about this, would you rather the tax dollars go to funding their education or their prison sentence?
    As a foster parent, I see this program as another way to re-enforce to these kids that you are not forgotten, people do care about you and you are worth it!

  • Christy Apr 2, 2009

    I remember reading an article in the N&O a couple of years ago and a subsequent follow up article about a young lady who had aged out of foster care and was struggling to attend college. In the follow up article, she was working 2 or 3 jobs trying to make enough money to support herself and take a couple of classes. I have thought about this young lady many times over the last several years and hoped she was able to make her way and wished I had the resources to help her. I am glad this program is in place and seems to have the support it needs to continue.

  • superman Apr 2, 2009

    Wonderful program-- it is always great to hear about free--we will soon have everything free! They said nothing about their success rate! Their drop out rate is probably high.

  • NC Reader Apr 2, 2009

    maydaymanny -- I understand your position. However, unless their foster parents keep them under their wings, these young people have no support whatever. It's not just financial support. It's that they have no parents to go home to, no adults to help them get an apartment or to give them an old used car, no mother or father just to hug and comfort them when they don't know where else to turn -- no home at all, period. So many former foster children end up on the streets or on public assistance. If we can help give them a start, then they are much more likely to be productive, taxpaying citizens rather than on welfare or in prison. Their hardships go far beyond just being financially poor.

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