Fostering Inspiration

When MCAN asked me to write a blog in honor of May being National Foster Care Month, I had the following thoughts:

“ABSOLUTELY! I love telling people about how they can support students from foster care!”

“Oh wait, I wrote about that last year…Yikes, what else can I say??”

As the Director of Outreach and Training with Center for Fostering Success, I have had the amazing privilege of overseeing the Fostering Success Michigan statewide initiative since its inception in 2012. I could not be prouder of Fostering Success Michigan and the progress we have made to increase access and success in the education to career pipeline for students from foster care. But, the BEST part of my job is talking with students about their education goals. Let me rephrase that…the BEST part of my job is watching a student’s face when they talk about their education goals. When I am with a student and they are talking about their education goals, it is the reminder of just how resilient our students from foster care are.

Like many of us who work in the fields of education or child welfare, we know that the young adults we work with are resilient, but do we actually hear what resilience sounds like? Do we see what resilience looks like? Next time you are with a student from foster care, I want you to try something. First, tell them that you can help them reach their education goals. Second, ask them about their plans for the future and their current successes. Third, watch what happens! Listen as excitement builds in their voice, watch as a glow spreads across their face, take in their smile as it reaches to their ears, and feel the joy as a spark grows in their eye. I promise you that the experience will truly be inspiring.

Unfortunately, if you are like me, running a million miles a minute, you don’t get to sit down with students and revel in these moments of inspiration as often as you would like. So, in honor of National Foster Care Month, I contacted some of the brilliant students from foster care I know and asked them to share with you how college has, or will, change their life…Get ready to feel inspired!

“College is going to prove that I’m not just a case number. I am a survivor of foster care, abuse and neglect that is going to make a life for herself. College is going to help me break the cycle of poverty and homelessness that my family and I have been struggling with for many years. Finally, college is going to open up doors of opportunities that I will be able to give myself and my future kids that my parents could not give me.”

 - Brittney B. is graduating high school this June and will be a freshman at Eastern Michigan University in Fall 2016.

“College has given me many opportunities; this includes connecting with community and pursuing my personal and academic interests in an environment that encourages me and fosters a great work ethic in me.”

Justin M. will start his senior year at Michigan State University in Fall 2016.

“College has changed my life before I even got here. The word “college”, coming from the inner city of Pontiac, Michigan to Detroit, Michigan, meant only one thing to me: A way out; a way to new-found peace. It’s like going to college automatically meant: moving away from the troubles in life and preparing for untamed success, if you can get there that is. College is tough at moments because it seems like things will all go wrong at the worst times. Sports played a critical role in my education because they opened the doors for me to college, so balancing the two were a task that I knew I was ready for, but didn’t know how they would play out. Graduation is underway; I played two sports in college and maintained a 3.4 GPA. With God, family and a dedication for excellence, anything is possible when you come from nothing, but work hard for everything.”

Damonta’ M. is graduating from Ferris State University in May and will start the Masters in Student Affairs and Higher Education program at Indiana State University in Fall 2016.

“Unlike many people who know their plan from a very young age, I didn’t think that I was going to college, or better yet even understand what that meant. Nonetheless, I was lucky enough to fall into a journey that got me through undergraduate studies and now to be graduate student with only one year left to complete an MSW. My trajectory through education happened in a series of steps which took place at very particular moments in my life. These steps involved educators who encouraged me and “planted the seeds” to get me thinking about what I should do next in my life. Considering these pivotal moments, including all of those whom I’ve met and have influenced my life in some sort of way, I am excited to be able to celebrate such successes as being the first person in my family to graduate from high school, the first person graduate college, the first to attend graduate studies and the first woman in the entire family to be truly self-sufficient and independent.”

- Becky M. is pursuing her Masters in Social Work at Western Michigan University.

I hope you find the words from these students as inspiring as I do. More than that, I hope their words inspire you to think about how you can support the students from foster care in your class, your campus, and your life. Talk with them, ask them to share their education goals with you, let them know that are there to support them and remind them that college really does change everything. You can learn more about Fostering Success Michigan on our website and follow us on Twitter and Facebook as we celebrate National Foster Care Month every day in May.

Don’t forget to show us your blue ribbons for #NFCM2016! 


Guest Author: Maddy Day, MSW, Director of Outreach and Training, Center for Fostering Success at Western Michigan University

Posted: May 5, 2016


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