A little more than a year ago, the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) launched the system-wide Foster Youth Success Initiative and since then more than 70 NSHE students have been helped with tuition assistance or other services.
First, NSHE received a $200,000 grant from the Walter S. Johnson Foundation, to support the successful implementation of the initiative-including the NSHE Foster Youth Fee Waiver that was passed, by the Board of Regents, in September 2018.
The primary mission of the NSHE Foster Youth Success Initiative is to more effectively recruit, support, and retain students who have been dependents of the child welfare system; and, the fee waiver is one key component in achieving that objective. However, we know that providing funding for foster youth is just one crucial step in ensuring their success in college.
NSHE has hired a Foster Youth Ambassador-Laura Obrist-who is dedicated to achieving the initiative’s mission. Laura is assisting all NSHE degree-granting institutions with implementing processes and designing/coordinating campus-based support services that will aid foster youth in enrolling and succeeding in college.
Laura is also the primary point of contact for-and liaison between-all of the NSHE institutions and community partners, working in collaboration with foster youth leaders, child welfare agencies,
school district officials, legal services providers, and other community providers/stakeholders who are well-versed in the unique challenges and needs of this underserved student population.
Meanwhile, the plan moving forward is to create a statewide learning community, build a comprehensive post-secondary support system for foster youth, and develop effective post-secondary transition strategies that will expand foster youth-serving systems’ capacity to support college-planning activities and create stronger career pathways for foster youth.
Furthermore, we are hoping to increase the number of students who use the NSHE Foster Youth Fee Waiver.
Recently, Laura, six institutional representatives and one youth representative attended the California College Pathways Blueprint for Success Conference, in Los Angeles. The conference focused on best practices that support foster youth in higher education.
NSHE is also collaborating with the Clark County Department of Family Services and their Project WE consultant on a branding/implementation plan for the fee waiver and an incoming complementary mentorship component. Our initiative has also had several statewide events to focus on foster youth, including a retreat – with five students and over 30 providers – and two Foster Youth Roundtable Discussions with Chancellor Thom Reilly in Las Vegas and Reno. The retreat focused on developing a Strategic Plan for the initiative, with clearly identified annual and future goals. The purpose of the roundtable discussions was to learn more about the barriers that foster youth face in successfully accessing and succeeding in higher education and to solicit students’ input on the types of support that they would like to see come out of the NSHE Foster Youth Success Initiative.
Of course, there’s a lot more work to do, including collecting data on the number of foster youth enrolled in NSHE institutions, improving processes for effectively identifying and serving students who have been in foster care, and working with UNLV and TMCC on applying for Walter S. Johnson Foundation grants to bolster foster care alumni support services on their campuses.
We encourage everyone to visit and share the Foster Youth Success Initiative Website at: https://nshe.nevada.edu/initiatives/foster-youth/.