HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont visited the campus of UConn Hartford, where he highlighted the recent success of a program the state operates that prepares youth in foster care to attend college, ensuring that they have access to the skills needed to prepare them for success throughout their careers.
Administered by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, the UConn Rising Scholars Program is a collaboration between the state agency and the University of Connecticut’s Center for Academic Programs. It features an intensive four-week summer immersion experience at the UConn Storrs campus. The students – all of whom are in high school and demonstrate the capacity to attend college – live on campus, attend classes, and have access to the same facilities as any other UConn student.
Academic courses in English, math, social studies, and science are taught by certified teachers and UConn graduate students. Other courses are devoted to learning about important aspects of life in college, including financial aid, college admissions, study, and other practical skills. In addition, before and after students come to Storrs in July, monthly “Academic Day” meetings are held on campus that offers support year-round.
“If we can introduce youths in foster care to a college experience while they are still in high school, we can show them that they have the capacity to succeed,” Governor Lamont said. “Being a child in foster care may feel difficult for some, and programs like this are designed to provide greater opportunities.”
DCF Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes said Rising Scholars is an important partnership between two state agencies that benefit youth in foster care in many ways.
“The summer immersion program and the monthly meetings serve to enlighten youth to the opportunities, build their skills, and provide the first-hand experience of college life,” Commissioner Dorantes said. “Bringing them to a college campus helps them to see themselves as college students and gives them the confidence and encouragement they need to stay on track academically.”
Children in foster care nationally have poorer educational outcomes due to the trauma they experience and the transitory life of too many children in foster care. Nationally, it is estimated that only 30 percent of children who grow up in foster care graduate from high school. Only about 7 to 13 percent of children in foster care enroll in higher education. While 24 percent of adults nationally get a bachelor’s or an advanced degree, only about two percent of youth in foster care do.
The lack of access to higher education is something Connecticut seeks to address by offering youth in foster care financial support to attend a two or four-year college, a training program to gain entry to trade, or other post-high schools educational program leading to a good career and independent, successful adulthood. More than 500 youth have participated annually over the past four years. Youth can participate until they reach 23 years old, and financial support is capped at the cost of attending one of the Connecticut state university system schools.
“As proud as we can be of supporting the education of deserving youth this way, youth in foster care need both the opportunity and the encouragement to take advantage of the opportunity,” Commissioner Dorantes said. “The Rising Scholars not only experience success themselves through the program, but they also receive actual college credits, and research shows that students who attain college credits in high school are more likely to attend college.”
Since the program started in 2013, 158 youth in foster care coming from 103 high schools across Connecticut have participated in Rising Scholars. This year, 35 students from 27 high schools are in the program.
Of those who completed the program:
· 99 percent graduated high school;
· 95 percent were accepted to a college; and
· 93 percent enrolled in college.
In addition to UConn and all four universities in the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, Rising Scholars students have enrolled at Norwich University, Roger Williams University, Sacred Heart University, Bennett College, Mitchell College, Bentley University, Oakwood University, Delaware State University, Mercy College, University of Bridgeport, Mount Ida College, Fisher College, the Culinary Institute of America, and several Connecticut community colleges.
Rising Scholars is recruiting high school students to attend the summer session this July and then continue with the monthly meetings.
Governor Lamont said the program is just one of a number of examples that show the positive results that flow from providing sufficient support to DCF.
“Given the right level of resources, we see DCF is able to ensure that social workers have the time to do quality work, make good decisions, and connect children and families to services in a timely manner,” Governor Lamont said, adding that for the first time in 30 years of federal court oversight the department has adequate staffing to meet caseload standards. “The Rising Scholars Program is another example of the success we can attain when we give DCF the resources it needs to help our young people grow into successful and contributing adults.”
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