Local News

Wake Tech helps former foster kids complete college

Posted April 2, 2009 8:08 a.m. EDT
Updated April 2, 2009 6:09 p.m. EDT

— 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.

“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.