NSHE Fostering Success Initiative

Resources

Wraparound Support

Foster Youth Fee Waiver

Financial Aid

System-Level NSHE Fostering Success Initiative Contact

"Laura Obrist"
Laura Obrist
Foster Youth Ambassador
Nevada System of Higher Education
(702) 522-7035

Laura, who serves all seven degree-granting NSHE institutions, is the NSHE System Administration (Chancellor’s Office) contact for the systemwide NSHE Fostering Success Initiative and NSHE Foster Youth Fee Waiver. Please direct any questions related to the initiative and/or the fee waiver policy/requirements to Laura.

The designated fee waiver contacts for each of the 7 degree-granting NSHE institutions are listed below and on the fee waiver form linked above. Additionally, the designated NSHE institution contacts for campus-based wraparound support are listed below, some of whom also serve as the fee waiver contact for their institution. These representatives and/or Laura can also connect students with the other NSHE institution-specific contacts who are assigned to support students who have experienced foster care with specialized needs.

NSHE Foster Youth Fee Waiver Contacts

Nevada System of Higher Education
Laura Obrist
Foster Youth Ambassador
Nevada System of Higher Education
(702) 522-7035

University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Heather Richardson
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
(702) 895-0638
University of Nevada, Reno
Dr. James Beattie
University of Nevada, Reno
(775) 682-8943
Nevada State College
Tanya Smith
Nevada State College
(702) 992-2262
College of Southern Nevada
Andrew Reyes
College of Southern Nevada
(702) 651-5616
Great Basin College
Brittney Maynard
Great Basin College
(775) 753-2186
Truckee Meadows Community College
Andy Hughes
Truckee Meadows Community College
(775) 673-7240
Western Nevada College
Chelsie Hamtak
Western Nevada College
(775) 445-3288

Clark County Department of Family Services
Shuuanndy Alvarez
(702) 455-5444
Isabel Iraheta
(702) 455-3712

DFSFeeWaiver@ClarkCountyNV.gov

The Clark County Department of Family Services provides foster care history documentation, for current and prospective NSHE students who were most recently in foster care in Clark County, Nevada.


Washoe County Human Services Agency
Valerie Welsh
(775) 303-7287
vwelsh@washoecounty.gov

The Washoe County Human Services Agency provides foster care history documentation, for current and prospective NSHE students who were most recently in foster care in Washoe County, Nevada.


Nevada Division of Child and Family Services
educationhelp@dcfs.nv.gov

The Nevada Division of Child and Family Services provides foster care history documentation, for current and prospective NSHE students who were most recently in foster care in Nevada, in any county aside from Clark County or Washoe County.

NSHE Fostering Success Initiative Campus-Based Wraparound Support Contacts

Nevada System of Higher Education
Laura Obrist
Nevada System of Higher Education
(702) 522-7035

University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Heather Richardson
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
(702) 895-0638

UNLV Fostering Scholars Program

University of Nevada, Reno
Dr. James Beattie
University of Nevada, Reno
(775) 682-8943

UNR Fostering the Pack

Nevada State College
Erika Arballo
Nevada State College
(702) 992-2394
College of Southern Nevada
Kimiko Walton
College of Southern Nevada
(702) 651-7450
Great Basin College
Brittney Maynard
Great Basin College
(775) 753-2186
Truckee Meadows Community College
Annalisa Walker
Truckee Meadows Community College
(775) 673-7060
Western Nevada College
Denise Stout
Western Nevada College
(775) 445-3271

NSHE Fostering Success Initiative Peer and Community Educators

"Tori Duncan"
Toni Duncan
2022-23 Peer and Community Educator
Nevada System of Higher Education
"Jesse Fager-Larsen"
Jesse Fager-Larsen
2021-22 Peer and Community Educator
Nevada System of Higher Education
"Autumn Robertson"
Autumn Robertson
2020-21 Peer and Community Educator
Nevada System of Higher Education

Initiative Overview

In September 2018, the Nevada Board of Regents launched the systemwide Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Fostering Success Initiative (formerly known as the NSHE Foster Youth Success Initiative) when they unanimously approved the NSHE Foster Youth Fee Waiver—a course registration fee waiver permitting qualifying NSHE undergraduate students to register for classes without being charged course registration or certain laboratory fees—thereby increasing college access for specific students who have experienced foster care.

Shortly thereafter, NSHE applied for and received six years of private grant funding, totaling $1.2 million, from the Walter S. Johnson Foundation—a national foundation that funds projects focused on improving wellbeing, economic stability, and educational opportunity for young people with experience in foster care and other systems-involved youth.

A portion of the grant funding has been allocated toward the salary and fringe benefits for a system-level foster youth ambassador, hired to facilitate the successful implementation and coordination of the initiative—including its fundamental fee waiver component—across NSHE’s seven degree-granting institutions. The grant funding has also supported with other system-level initiative needs.

During the first annual initiative retreat, in September 2019, the initiative’s vision was collaboratively developed by the 38 stakeholders in attendance, including five students with lived experience in foster care. After a full day of collaborative brainstorming, the retreat participants came up with the following vision statement:

Our vision is to build a comprehensive, sustainable, and permanent education support system for Nevada students who have experienced foster care—from secondary education completion, to postsecondary education attainment, to a career path.

Several months later, the 2019 retreat participants became the core members of the Nevada Fostering Higher Education Support Network that the NSHE foster youth ambassador formally established in early 2020—a coordinated statewide network of NSHE student leaders with foster care history, child welfare professionals, K-12 educators and administrators, legal services providers, court representatives, workforce professionals, NSHE institution employees, and other stakeholders—some of whom are already well-versed in the unique circumstances, challenges, and needs of young people who have experienced foster care, and all of whom are committed to continually engaging in culturally humble, best practice-focused learning opportunities in order to effectively serve young people with experience in foster care with their postsecondary education-related challenges, needs, and long-term goals.

These core network members make up the Nevada Fostering Higher Education Committee. The committee meets quarterly, alternating between a statewide and regional format.

With the initiative’s vision consistently in mind, our mission is to more effectively recruit, support, and retain students who have experienced foster care; and the fee waiver is a key component in achieving that goal for qualifying students (you can learn more about the fee waiver eligibility requirements and benefits in this Who, What, When, Where, & Why Fact Sheet). However, the initiative serves any current or prospective NSHE student with experience in foster care—regardless of when or where they were in foster care, or their eligibility for the fee waiver or other financial aid. NSHE is dedicated to providing both financial and wraparound support, as we know that providing funding for students who have experienced foster care is just one crucial step in ensuring their college success.

Hired in July 2019, NSHE’s full-time, system-level foster youth ambassador is dedicated to achieving the initiative’s mission and ultimate vision, in collaboration with the statewide Nevada Fostering Higher Education Support Network.

In order to ensure that NSHE is working effectively with young people with experience in foster care, the ambassador frequently consults with student leaders with foster care history and other members of the network who have expertise in the unique circumstances, challenges, and needs of this underserved student population and/or expertise in various higher education topics. The ambassador serves as the primary point of contact for, and liaison between, all of the NSHE institutions and community partners. The ambassador also responds to inquiries from both prospective and current NSHE students who have experienced foster care, providing them with resources and directing them to campus-based staff/faculty who can further assist them with various needs.

Additionally, the ambassador leads the network—particularly the core members who make up the Nevada Fostering Higher Education Committee—in the development and implementation of effective postsecondary education planning, preparation, access, transition, and persistence practices. These practices are formulated to assist young people who have experienced trauma, educational instability, inadequate financial resources, and limited support systems; and the approach employed is twofold:

  1. Increasing financial aid access and utilization for all prospective and current NSHE students with experience in foster care—particularly in the form of the NSHE Foster Youth Fee Waiver (for eligible current and former dependents of the Nevada foster care system); federal, state, and institution-specific grants; and scholarships; AND
  2. Improving and expanding postsecondary education-specific wraparound support for Nevada students who have experienced foster care—including students in the college preparation and transition stages, as well as continuing college students.

As a system-level employee, the ambassador employs three core strategies in facilitating the statewide network and supporting its members with achieving success, each of which includes several key focus areas designed to increase postsecondary education attainment for young people with experience in foster care:

  1. Resourcing (building knowledge) – Creating and/or disseminating specialized resources—in collaboration with student leaders and experts in the field of higher education support for students with experience in foster care—that assist educators and other professionals with better understanding the following:
    1. The unique circumstances, challenges, and needs of students who have experienced foster care
    2. The financial and wraparound support already available to help support students who have experienced foster care to reach their college goals
    3. The financial and wraparound support still needed to more effectively assist current and prospective college students who have experienced foster care
  2. Networking (building social capital) – Facilitating consistent opportuities for the statewide network to connect with each other and other professionals throughout the country, in order to learn from each other, share ideas, and collaborate on projects designed to better support students who have experienced foster care
  3. Supporting (building skills) – Identifying and providing opportunities for perpetual, culturally humble engagement in best practice-focused learning/training pertaining to effective methods for supporting students with experience in foster care

These core strategies, informed by national best practices in supporting students who have experienced foster care with reaching their college goals, better equip the statewide network to achieve the initiative’s mission and ultimate vision.

In adopting best practices and strengthening resources and support services that are tailored to students with foster care history, NSHE seeks to:

  1. improve its own ability to effectively support young people who have experienced foster care with college planning, preparation, access, transition, and persistence activities
  2. expand the capacity of other systems serving this population to assist with college-focused activities
  3. build stronger career pathways for students with experience in foster care

Statewide network members, particularly the core members who make up the Nevada Fostering Higher Education Committee, engage in three key activities that align with the system-level core strategies and promote the success of our students who have experienced foster care:

  1. Individualized direct coaching that centers the young person as the expert in their own experiences and needs, builds trust, and fosters self-advocacy and independent living skills;
  2. Tailored campus- and community-based resource and/or support service provision; and
  3. Timely and appropriate advocacy that assists in removing barriers.

Initiative Growth Timeline

2018

Nevada Board of Regents Unanimously Approves NSHE Foster Youth Fee Waiver

Board of Regents launched the systemwide Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Fostering Success Initiative (formerly known as the NSHE Foster Youth Success Initiative) when they unanimously approved the NSHE Foster Youth Fee Waiver—a course registration fee waiver permitting qualifying NSHE undergraduate students to register for classes without being charged course registration or certain laboratory fees—thereby increasing college access for specific students who have experienced foster care.

2019

NSHE Awarded 1st Walter S. Johnson Foundation Grant: $200,000

In February 2019, the Walter S. Johnson Foundation awarded NSHE System Administration an initial one-year $200,000 grant, to hire a system-level employee (the NSHE foster youth ambassador) to facilitate the successful implementation and coordination of the initiative—including its fundamental fee waiver component—across NSHE’s seven degree-granting institutions, and to support with other system-level initiative needs.

NSHE Begins 1-Year Walter S. Johnson Foundation Grant Cycle

NSHE System Administration began their 1-Year $200,000 Walter S. Johnson Foundation grant cycle on March 1, 2019. The grant funds were allocated toward the NSHE foster youth ambassador’s salary and fringe benefits, as well as other system-level initiative needs.

System-Level Employee Hired

In July 2019, NSHE hired Foster Youth Ambassador Laura Obrist to facilitate the successful implementation and coordination of the initiative—including its fundamental fee waiver component—across NSHE’s seven degree-granting institutions. This includes developing and implementing effective postsecondary education planning, preparation, access, transition, and persistence practices that are formulated to assist young people who have experienced trauma, educational instability, inadequate financial resources, and limited support systems.

Initiative Website and Twitter Account Launched

Shortly after beginning the role in mid-2019, the NSHE foster youth ambassador launched the initiative website to get the word out about activities and resources. The ambassador also launched a Twitter account for the systemwide initiative.

Fall 2019 Chancellor’s Roundtable Discussions Held with NSHE Students Who Have Experienced Foster Care

In an effort to ensure that the system office was engaging, first-hand, with students who have experienced foster care, then-Chancellor Thom Reilly hosted two regional roundtable discussions during the Fall 2019 semester. From these discussions, 14 key recommendations addressing postsecondary education access/success barriers were identified for Nevada education and community providers. The student feedback from the roundtable discussions was then disseminated to the college/university presidents, in a memo, as well as used to inform the development of the initiative’s strategic plan.

NSHE Hosts 1st Annual NSHE Fostering Success Initiative Retreat

The NSHE foster youth ambassador hosted the first annual NSHE Fostering Success Initiative Retreat in September 2019, during which 33 educators/providers and five students worked collaboratively to build a more cohesive statewide learning community focused on supporting students who have experienced foster care in accessing and thriving in college, including the development of the NSHE Fostering Success Initiative Strategic Plan.

NSHE Delegation Attends 2019 California College Pathways Blueprint for Success Conference

In October 2019, a delegation of NSHE employees, community partners, and one high school senior in foster care who was admitted to/preparing to enroll at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) attended the California College Pathways Blueprint for Success Conference—a nationally-renowned, biannual event focused on supporting students who have experienced foster care with postsecondary education enrollment and success.

TMCC Awarded 1st Walter S. Johnson Foundation Grant: $30,000

In November 2019, the Walter S. Johnson Foundation awarded Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) an initial 18-month $30,000 grant, to improve housing stability and peer mentorship support for its students who have experienced foster care.

First Initiative Update Provided to the Nevada Board of Regents

In December 2019, the NSHE foster youth ambassador provided the Nevada Board of Regents with the first official update on the initiative’s progress, including the initial NSHE Foster Youth Fee Waiver utilization numbers (for Fall 2018, Spring 2019, and Fall 2019).

2020

TMCC Begins 18-Month Walter S. Johnson Foundation Grant Cycle

Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) began their 18-Month $30,000 Walter S. Johnson Foundation grant cycle on January 1, 2022. TMCC utilized their funds to improve housing stability and peer mentorship for its students who have experienced foster care.

Nevada Fostering Higher Education Network and Nevada Fostering Higher Education Committee Established

The NSHE foster youth ambassador formally established the Nevada Fostering Higher Education Network in January 2020, which includes a core group of NSHE employees, students, and community partners that comprises the Nevada Fostering Higher Education Committee. The committee meets quarterly, alternating between a statewide and regional format.

Nevada Fostering Higher Education Financial Aid Toolkit Launched

The NSHE foster youth ambassador developed the Nevada Fostering Success Financial Aid Toolkit in early 2020, which went live on the initiative website in May 2020.

NSHE Awarded 2nd Walter S. Johnson Foundation Grant: $400,000

In February 2020, the Walter S. Johnson Foundation awarded NSHE a second grant—in the amount of $400,000 over two years—to sustain the NSHE foster youth ambassador position and provide for other system-level initiative needs.

UNLV Awarded Walter S. Johnson Foundation Grant: $200,000

In February 2020, the Walter S. Johnson Foundation awarded the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) a $200,000 grant to launch a campus-based support program. Due to pandemic-related hiring delays, UNLV was granted an extension on their grant term and was able to hire a coordinator the following summer (in June 2021).

NSHE Begins 2-Year Walter S. Johnson Foundation Grant Cycle

NSHE System Administration began their 2-Year $400,000 Walter S. Johnson Foundation grant cycle on July 1, 2020. The grant funds were, once again, allocated toward the NSHE foster youth ambassador’s salary and fringe benefits, as well as other system-level initiative needs.

Expert Panel Facilitated for UNLV: Best Practices in Providing Campus-Based Wraparound Support to Students Who Have Experienced Foster Care

In July 2020, the NSHE foster youth ambassador facilitated an expert panel on best practices in providing campus-based wraparound support to students with experience in foster care, for University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) staff/faculty.

The panel featured a UNLV student with experience in foster care, a child welfare professional with the Clark County Department of Family Services, and four California-based students/professionals who have participated in and/or run campus-based support programs for this student population. Five out of six panelists had lived experience in foster care.

Standardized Foster Care History Question Implemented on All NSHE Applications for Admission

To accomplish the initiative’s objective of providing students who have experienced foster care with the support needed to flourish, it is important to identify and serve any student in that category, regardless of fee waiver eligibility.

This is critical for the purposes of accurately tracking key data, increasing fee waiver utilization, and connecting students to resources/services. To this end, the NSHE foster youth ambassador worked with institutional presidents and registrars during the first half of 2020 to add a standardized foster care identification question to all NSHE applications for admission.

The question was fully implemented by all 7 degree-granting NSHE institutions in time for the Fall 2021 admission cycle. The ambassador continually works with the institutions to identify and serve these students through targeted outreach efforts.

Systemwide Peer and Community Educator Position Established

The NSHE foster youth ambassador established the systemwide peer and community educator position—a part-time student leadership role with the initiative—in mid-2020. The role has an intentional one-year term design. This is to allow multiple students to have the opportunity to hold the position, and to support students in moving onto other resume-building opportunities after one year of service.

The initiative’s first peer and community educator began the role in August 2020, for the 2020-21 academic year. In line with national best practices that reiterate the importance of youth-informed and/or youth-led work when serving young people with experience in foster care, this student leadership role is an initiative cornerstone.

COVID-19 Resources Allocated to NSHE Students With Experience in Foster Care

In Summer 2020, the NSHE foster youth ambassador secured one-time approval, due to the onset of COVID-19, to reallocate system-level grant funds directly to NSHE students with foster care history. NSHE also partnered with Together We Rise to secure and execute their own Walter S. Johnson Foundation grant, specifically serving Nevada students who have experienced foster care through their COVID-19 Rapid Response program. The partnership began in Fall 2020 and funding for unmet needs was disbursed through July 2021.

Initiative Instagram Account Launched

In Fall 2020, the NSHE foster youth ambassador and the 2020-21 peer and community educator launched an Instagram account for the initiative, expanding the online presence after establishing this website and Twitter account in mid-2019.

Quick-Reference Financial Aid Overview and Detailed FAFSA Completion Instructions for Students Who Have Experienced Foster Care Disseminated

In Fall 2020, the NSHE foster youth ambassador developed and widely disseminated a quick-reference financial aid overview and detailed FAFSA completion instructions for Nevada students with foster care history.

NSHE Hosts 2nd Annual NSHE Fostering Success Initiative Retreat

The NSHE foster youth ambassador hosted the second annual NSHE Fostering Success Initiative Retreat in November, during which the 56 participants heard feedback from students on the strategic plan progress and worked collaboratively to generate initiative goals for the next year.

2021

UNLV Fostering Scholars Program Coordinator Hired & UNLV Fostering Scholars Program Established

In June 2021, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) hired Coordinator Heather Richardson to launch the UNLV Fostering Scholars Program, marking NSHE’s second full-time position serving students who have experienced foster care, and first full-time campus-based position and support program dedicated to students with experience in foster care.

Utilizing the $200,000 in funding support from the Walter S. Johnson Foundation that was secured in 2020, and an initial internal funding commitment of over $100,000, UNLV went through the hiring process for the Fostering Scholars Program coordinator position in Spring 2021, hired in Summer 2021, and began providing formalized wraparound support services for UNLV students with foster care history in Fall 2021. In addition to the coordinator role, the new program was supported by two UNLV Master of Social Work practicum students during its inaugural year (2021-22).

UNR Internally Funds a 2021-22 Graduate Assistant Serving First-Generation College Students, Including Students with Experience in Foster Care

In Fall 2021, the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) invested internal funds in a 2021-22 graduate assistant position dedicated to serving first-generation college students, including students with experience in foster care.

UNR Awarded Walter S. Johnson Foundation Grant: $200,000

The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) was invited to submit a Letter of Inquiry for a $200,000 grant through the Walter S. Johnson Foundation in Summer 2021, based on their targeted internal efforts to formalize and expand support for students with experience in foster care. They were then invited to submit a formal grant proposal to the Foundation, which was approved in November 2021.

TMCC Awarded 2nd Walter S. Johnson Foundation Grant: $225,000

Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) was invited to apply for a three-year $225,000 Walter S. Johnson Foundation grant in November 2021, which was approved in December 2021.

NSHE Employees and Community Partners Participate in Specialized Training on Supporting College Students Who Have Experienced Foster Care

From April through July 2021, NSHE utilized some grant funds to pay for a specialized 16-week virtual Level I Fostering Success Coach Training. 18 NSHE employees and community partners successfully completed the training and thereby became Level 1 Certified Fostering Success Coaches. Since the initial group completed the Level I training, additional NSHE employees and community partners who have joined the initiative work have also successfully completed the training and become Level 1 Certified Fostering Success Coaches. This practice will persist as new people continue to join the work.

1st Biennial Fee Waiver Report Completed & Presented to the Nevada Board of Regents

The NSHE foster youth ambassador wrote the first biennial fee waiver report, with support from leadership in the NSHE Department of Academic and Student Affairs. The ambassador then presented the report to the Nevada Board of Regents, in September 2021—which outlines the total number of students who utilized the fee waiver and the total cost to the NSHE institutions during the 2018-19, 2019-20, and 2020-21 academic years, as well as the student completion measures that NSHE will track moving forward.

Systemwide Needs Survey Conducted Among NSHE Students Who Have Experienced Foster Care

The 2020-21 peer and community educator and the NSHE foster youth ambassador conducted a systemwide needs survey that NSHE students who have experienced foster care were invited to complete from December 2020 through June 2021. The survey collected information about key barriers that have negatively impacted students’ ability to persist in their college education, including core issues associated with the barriers and what would be helpful in addressing them. The survey results are continually used to guide the initiative’s efforts.

2022

UNR Begins 2-Year Walter S. Johnson Foundation Grant Cycle

The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) began their two-year $200,000 Walter S. Johnson Foundation grant cycle on January 1, 2022. UNR is utilizing their funds to establish Fostering the Pack — a formal, campus-based support program for students with experience in foster care, which launched in Spring 2022 and is housed within UNR’s larger First in the Pack program for first-generation college students.

Expanding upon UNR’s previous work supporting students with foster care history, Fostering the Pack provides more intensive, customized wraparound support for its NSHE Foster Youth Fee Waiver recipients—through a dedicated graduate assistant who provides coaching services, resources, and opportunities to build a sense of belonging with other students who have experienced foster care and the larger campus community.

The establishment of the graduate assistant role and the launch of Fostering the Pack mark NSHE’s second campus-based position and support program dedicated to students with foster care history.

Additional Together We Rise Resources Allocated to NSHE Students With Experience in Foster Care

NSHE partnered with Together We Rise, for a second time, to provide supplemental funding support to Nevada students who have experienced foster care through the Together We Rise Rapid Response program. The program reserved $15,000 for the 2022 calendar year, funded by the Walter S. Johnson Foundation, for Nevada students with experience in foster care who are transitioning to or already enrolled in college. The funds are flexible and are available to cover expenses that cannot be covered by financial aid or other funding sources for which students may be eligible.

TMCC Begins 3-Year Walter S. Johnson Foundation Grant Cycle

Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) began their three-year $225,000 Walter S. Johnson Foundation grant cycle on March 1, 2022. TMCC—the only NSHE institution with a formalized commitment to serving students who have experienced foster care that predates the launch of the systemwide initiative—is using its second Foundation grant to build upon its longstanding efforts to address resource gaps for students with foster care history, through formalized support mechanisms.

Prior to the 2018 systemwide initiative launch, TMCC already had a part-time faculty mentor position and interdepartmental committee dedicated to students with experience in foster care. Then, with its first Foundation grant, TMCC implemented a pilot project focused on housing stability and peer mentor support. TMCC is using its new seed funding to launch a campus-based support program dedicated to students who have experienced foster care—similar to what the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) now offer.

NSHE Foster Youth Ambassador & UNLV Fostering Scholars Program Coordinator Begin Serving on Monthly Eighth Judicial District Court OPPLA Review Panel

In January 2022, the NSHE foster youth ambassador and University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Fostering Scholars Program coordinator began serving on a newly created monthly Eighth Judicial District Court OPPLA (Other Planned Permanent Living Arrangement) Review Panel. The panel, which joins back-to-back permanency planning hearings for high schoolers in foster care on a designated day each month, is designed to improve the high school-to-college pipeline for Clark County youth in foster care who have an OPPLA permanency goal on file with the court and, by nature of that status, particularly limited support systems.

At each panel session, the NSHE foster youth ambassador provides information about the initiative resources/services at the 7 degree-granting NSHE institutions, and the UNLV Fostering Scholars Program coordinator provides information about UNLV’s campus-based support program, to the young people participating.

Joint Data Collection and Information Sharing Letter Completed, Signed by DCFS & NDE Leadership, and Disseminated

Over the course of a year, the NSHE foster youth ambassador worked with the Nevada Fostering Higher Education Committee’s data subcommittee (both groups are led by the ambassador) to draft a joint data collection and information sharing letter, designed to inform the local child welfare and education agencies about education-focused federal and state laws, individual rights, and best practices pertaining to the unique circumstances, challenges, and needs of young people with experience in foster care. The letter was finalized, signed by DCFS and NDE leadership, and disseminated to the local child welfare and education agencies in February 2022.

NSHE Awarded 3rd Walter S. Johnson Foundation Grant: $600,000

In May 2022, the Walter S. Johnson Foundation awarded NSHE a third grant—in the amount of $600,000 over three years—to sustain the NSHE foster youth ambassador position and provide for other system-level initiative needs during a challenging budget period.

NSHE Foster Youth Fee Waiver Eligibility Expanded by the Nevada Board of Regents

In early 2022, the NSHE foster youth ambassador worked with leadership in the NSHE Department of Academic and Student Affairs to draft two proposed NSHE Foster Youth Fee Waiver policy revisions that would expand eligibility. At their June 2022 quarterly meeting, the Nevada Board of Regents unanimously approved both fee waiver policy revisions. The first revision standardized the eligibility requirements for Nevada’s young people who have experienced foster care, regardless of the state from which they graduated high school, as long as they were under the care of a Nevada child welfare agency. The second revision lowered the age at which a student must have been in the custody of the Nevada foster care system—from 14+ to 13+ years old—opening up eligibility for students who exited foster care at age 13 (Board of Regents Handbook Revision, June 2022).

Sustainable Plan Created for Expanding NSHE’s Foster Youth Fee Waiver Data Collection and Biennial Report Development

In Summer 2022, the NSHE foster youth ambassador, in collaboration with NSHE’s institutional research team, created a sustainable plan for expanding NSHE’s data collection and biennial report development related to NSHE Foster Youth Fee Waiver a utilization and the persistence and graduation rates for fee waiver recipients

NSHE Begins 3-Year Walter S. Johnson Foundation Grant Cycle

NSHE System Administration began their three-Year $600,000 Walter S. Johnson Foundation grant cycle on July 1, 2022. NSHE is using its third Foundation grant to strengthen and expand the work achieved with its first two Foundation grants. This additional grant is providing the initiative with sustained stability during a challenging budget period; and it brings the higher education system to a total of $1,025,000 in additional Foundation grant funding in 2022, to help improve financial and wraparound support for students with experience in foster care—after the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) began their $200,000 grant cycle in January and Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) began their $225,000 grant cycle in March. With the $830,000 previously awarded to System Administration ($600,000), TMCC ($30,000), and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) ($200,000), this brings NSHE to a total of $1,855,000 in grant funding from the Foundation.

TMCC Fostering College Success Advocate Hired

In August 2022, TMCC hired part-time Fostering College Success Advocate Annalisa Walker, who is tasked with launching its new campus-based support program serving students who have experienced foster care, the Fostering College Success Program. The dedicated advocate position replaced the part-time faculty mentor role, which was designed as an additional assignment and therefore limited in capacity. The advocate hire marks NSHE’s third campus-based position dedicated to students with foster care history; and the launch of the Fostering College Success Program will mark NSHE’s third campus-based support program serving this student population.

Initiative Adopts a More Person-Centered Name and a New Logo

In September 2022, the systemwide initiative name was officially changed from NSHE Foster Youth Success Initiative to NSHE Fostering Success Initiative, to remove the label of “foster youth” and reflect a person-centered approach to supporting students who have experienced foster care. The 2021-22 and 2022-23 peer and community educators then created a logo concept that evolved into the new logo that now accompanies the new name.

The initiative has increasingly used person-centered language as it has evolved. For example, prior to the initiative name change, the NSHE foster youth ambassador revised the naming convention used for initiative-related materials and groups, such as the Nevada Fostering Success Financial Aid Toolkit and the Nevada Fostering Higher Education Committee. The ambassador also asked the three NSHE institutions launching campus-based support programs (UNLV, UNR, and TMCC) to follow suit when naming their new programs serving students with foster care history; as a result, those institutions have named their programs as follows: UNLV Fostering Scholars Program, UNR Fostering the Pack, and TMCC Fostering College Success Program.

This naming convention is in line with developing national best practice trends—with similar initiatives that serve students with experience in foster care—that call for a deeper understanding of what young people endure in the foster care system, the grit that it takes to persevere over the many obstacles thrown their way because of that experience, and how labeling them according to the status of having been in the custody of a child welfare agency can do them harm and hinder their progress toward their goals. While students who grew up in foster care need dedicated resources to help make up for their limited support systems, inadequate financial resources, and repeated disruptions to their education paths, their experience in the foster care system does not and should not define them. Ensuring that caregivers, child welfare professionals, educators, and other providers understand that is important for the future of the child welfare and education systems, as well as community-based organizations that serve young people with foster care history.

Initiative Photo Gallery