Lamenting that less than 10 percent of youths in foster care go on to achieve a bachelor’s degree, the South Jersey First Star Collaborative announced that 30 full college scholarships for such students will be provided by the Give Something Back Foundation.
Nationally, only about 50 percent of foster children graduate from high school by age 18, according to a fact sheet on educational outcomes. Only between two and nine percent of former foster youth earn a bachelor’s degree — compared to 30 percent of the general population. The South Jersey First Star Collaborative is a public-private partnership that aims to improve educational outcomes for these young people.
The formidable obstacles facing hard-working foster students inspired Bob Carr, the founder of the Give Something Back Foundation, to sponsor the scholarships. Give Something Back, based in Princeton, N.J., has provided mentoring and college scholarships for nearly 1,000 students who qualify for the Pell Grant.
Carr, who grew up in a financially-strapped household in rural Illinois, noted that youths in foster care, like other disadvantaged kids, are at an increased risk of unemployment, homelessness, reliance on public assistance and incarceration. He said education can break the destructive cycle.
“These kids deserve a fair chance to compete and succeed,” said Carr. “We know that higher education will mean more productive lives for them — and for the generations that follow them.”
The students learned about their full scholarships recently while on the campus of Rowan University, where they are attending the First Star Academy, a residential summer immersion program. As part of the South Jersey Collaborative, the program prepares foster care students for the challenges of the college classroom and independent living.
The scholarship recipients may attend one of the New Jersey colleges that partner with Give Something Back, including Rowan University, The College of New Jersey, Montclair State University, and Saint Peter’s University, William Paterson University and New Jersey Institute of Technology.
The Give Something Back scholars attend the institutions free of tuition, room and board and fees, which gives them the opportunity to graduate in four years without debt.
To maintain eligibility for the college scholarship, the students, who are chosen in the ninth grade, must enroll in courses appropriate for baccalaureate admissions, as well as achieve a B average and demonstrate good character. The foundation also provides scholarships for students to attend community college and trade school, even if they do not have a B grade point.
Peter Samuelson, the president of First Star, said the scholarships represent a new beginning for these young people. “These students can now look beyond their turbulent pasts,” he said. “Nothing stands between them and what they want to achieve in life.”
The Give Something Back Foundation has made an unprecedented commitment to Cumberland County in recent months, having announced on April 19 that 23 ninth grade students from Bridgeton High School are also to receive full college scholarships from GSBF upon successful high school graduation. This brings the total number of full scholarships to 53 for the community.
Melissa Helmbrecht, the executive director of CASA of Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties, a child-advocate group that manages the South Jersey First Star program, noted that these regions include some of the highest rates of child neglect and abuse in the state.
“The gifts from the Give Something Back Foundation marks a turning point in our academy and our community,” she said.
For more information about the Give Something Back Foundation mentoring and scholarship program, visit givesomethingbackfoundation.org.
About Give Something Back Foundation
Give Something Back works with high school administrators and community leaders to select ninth graders who show academic promise and whose family income qualifies them to receive a Federal Pell Grant.
The program helps students who may not have considered college as an achievable option receive the guidance needed to complete a college degree in four years, debt free.
Give Something Back pairs selected students with trained adult mentors who support the students through the challenges of high school years at home and in the classroom, preparing them for the rigors of a four-year college education. Mentors help students navigate the process of college admissions. Give Something Back provides its high school graduates with a scholarship for tuition, room and board at one of its partner universities and colleges.
About South Jersey First Star Collaborative
The South Jersey First Star Collaborative is a project of First Star, Inc. in partnership with Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties, United Advocacy Group, Community Treatment Solutions, and Rutgers Child and Family Law Clinic. SJ First Star is a rigorous college-prep program for foster youth designed to improve educational outcomes and ensure college attainment. The project is fully funded by the Pascale Sykes Foundation as part of its South Jersey Strengthening Families initiative. Visit South Jersey First Star Collaborative to learn more.
About First Star
First Star’s Foster Youth Academies, the nation’s only foster youth college prep programs that include residential components on university campuses over the four years of high school, transform the lives of participating youth: from poverty, abuse and neglect to academic success and self-sufficiency. There are eight First Star Academies operating in the United States, with a ninth in the U.K. and many more in development. Visit First Star to learn more.