Foster Care Summit Reaches Out

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A large group of high school-age, foster care youth recently participated in an event on the UM-Flint campus that provided inspiration and information needed to seek a higher education.

The University of Michigan-Flint has a long history of reaching out to help disadvantaged youth realize their dreams of a college education. It was in the past year that the needs of foster children who want to go to college were given special attention by state and local human services agencies.

According to state statistics, Genesee County is second in the state to Wayne County in the number of youth in foster care. About 400 youth are at or near college age. Studies show that while 70 percent of college-age youth in foster care want to go on to higher education after high school, only a small number actually do—about 10 percent.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Mary Jo Sekelsky and Director of Financial Aid Lori Vedder, joined with the Michigan Department of Human Services in Genesee County and the Flint YWCA to host the Foster Care Summit on October 2.

"The Foster Care Summit was an overwhelming success," said Sekelsky. "When our planning group began meeting in May, we were determined to make something happen by October."

Event attendance exceeded participation goals, and helped to begin removing the obstacles faced by foster youth, according to Sekelsky.

What might have been the biggest success of the summit was a presentation by guest speaker Liz Murray, whose inspirational story was told in the movie, "Homeless to Harvard." Murray shared how she used education to overcome the odds of being homeless at age 15.

"Students connected with Liz, and kept the question-and-answer session going about three times longer than planned," said Sekelsky.

The Summit Planning Committee will meet in the near future to determine immediate next steps, including how often the summit will be held.

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