Unique Arizona State University program provides an “early start” to college success for foster care alumni

Tempe, AZ | Submitted by Jeanne Hanrahan

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Postsecondary education is more important than ever. Seven out of ten jobs in our growing economy require education beyond high school, whether that’s a professional certification or college degree. Unfortunately, attainment in Arizona hasn’t kept pace with the demand. Only 43 percent of Arizona residents hold a postsecondary degree or certificate – a figure the Arizona Education Progress Meter aims to increase to 60 percent by the year 2030.

The attainment level drops even lower among certain segments of our population. For instance, among the nearly 5,000 foster youth ages 13 – 21 years old in our state, a mere one in ten will enroll in college and only 3 percent will graduate.

To help these students have the best chance in college, Arizona State University (ASU) created Bridging Success Early Start, a free, transition to college program for entering freshmen and transfer students who have experienced foster care.

Students from all four ASU campuses participate in a one-week, residential program held at the Tempe campus. The program is designed to welcome students to the university, connect them to the Bridging Success community, and help them gain skills and knowledge to support their success at the university.

Every college freshman faces the challenges of being away from home, adjusting to new schedules and places, managing finances, and much more. But youth who have been in foster care can face even more daunting challenges, including a lack of structured support, increased financial burden, and limited opportunities to live independently. It’s why, in 2015, ASU ran its first summer transition program to help enable success for foster care alumni. It was the first program of its kind in Arizona and was made possible by ASU’s Women & Philanthropy group.

Participants are invited to the Tempe campus for a holistic look at how to succeed in college. Workshops cover everything from using ASU’s online tools to on-campus resources and coping skills. The strengths-based approach is led by foster youth professionals and current ASU students who are foster care alumni and deeply understand what these youth need.

And beyond the learning that takes place, the program nurtures strong relationships within the group, which enable students to lean on each other. The program encourages relationship building between peers and current ASU students with similar lived experiences.

Academic and social support continues throughout the year. Students benefit from regular workshops, contact with dedicated mentors and community service opportunities.

With support from corporate and nonprofit partners, the Bridging Success Early Start program has served nearly 100 students. These individuals have shown a higher retention rate and many are grateful for their experience:

  • “This program was like having VIP access to all the resources ASU has to offer! I feel equipped and a bit more confident.” -Monique
  • “I’m feeling so prepared and grateful to be part of a caring, supportive group.” -Emily

To learn more about how ASU is supporting foster youth, visit their site.


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