Portland-Based Nonprofits Team Up to Help Oregon Foster Youth Complete High School and Access College

With Funding From Meyer Memorial Trust, Fosterclub Will Provide Student Success Coaching From Insidetrack to Help Bridge the Graduation Gap for Foster Youth

FosterClub, a national nonprofit network that empowers and supports foster youth to effect change in the foster care system, announced an ambitious two-year initiative to help close the gap in high school graduation and college and career readiness for foster youth. To help these students navigate the complexity of high school graduation and chart a path to success in college or career, FosterClub has engaged the national student coaching nonprofit InsideTrack, which has spent more than 20 years supporting underrepresented students in K-12 schools and higher education, including many who were formerly in the foster system.

“Children and youth engaged in the foster system have for too long lacked the type of support and engagement needed to successfully navigate the transition to and through college. Many have experienced childhood trauma and other adverse experiences that can create additional barriers to success,” said Celeste Bodner, executive director of FosterClub. “To help more young people from foster care achieve their full educational and career potential, it’s crucial that we find new ways to deliver support, guidance and connection during the transition period from foster care to higher education, the workplace and young adulthood.”

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Research shows significant gaps in college access and completion for foster youth, as students in the foster care system often lack the support and advice from family members that other college-goers receive. High school dropout rates are three times higher for foster youth than other low-income children. Of the approximately 400,000 children in foster care, approximately 9% become emancipated each year, either by completing a high school diploma or reaching the age of 18. According to FosterClub, roughly 40% of foster youth will enroll in higher education, and only 4% will graduate.

To help address these challenges, FosterClub and InsideTrack will work with youth in Oregon’s foster care system to improve high school graduation rates and boost college and career readiness over the next two years. The partnership will support up to 200 young people as they work to complete high school and prepare for the transition to higher education or the workforce.

A professional InsideTrack coach will work with each young person from FosterClub to help them build the skills needed for long-term academic and career success, finish high school or high school equivalency, and choose from a range of educational and career options after high school, including college enrollment.

Through structured meetings and on-demand interactions, coaches help participants hone the knowledge, skills and beliefs needed to effectively transition from secondary education to their next steps. Coaches will also work with students to provide assistance during the college application process, as needed, and help them understand the financial assistance options to support their studies, including completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to access need-based financial aid.

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“To help more foster youth achieve their long-term educational and career aspirations after high school, we first need to close the longstanding resource and equity gaps that too often negatively impact young people in the protective care of our child welfare system,” said Ruth Bauer White, president of InsideTrack. “The data are clear that we must do more to provide the sort of wrap-around support and guidance that can help foster youth reach their full potential and the choice-filled adult lives that education can provide.”

The program is funded by the Oregon-based philanthropy Meyer Memorial Trust and a matching grant from Strada Education Network. The collaboration between FosterClub and InsideTrack began with a 2018 pro bono project called Fostering Potential that was organized and led by InsideTrack employees. The program provided direct coaching to help high school-age foster youth access and succeed in higher education.

Research will play a critical role in the foster youth project, and the organizations have plans to share insights with the broader field of educators, human services professionals and philanthropies focused on foster care policy and reform.

“The application of this evidence-based and rigorously tested approach to student coaching with foster youth will bring critical new insights on how we can improve student engagement, persistence, and completion,” said Bekah Sabzalian, equitable education program officer at Meyer Memorial Trust. “More broadly, this work is about making good on the promise of college access for more students from historically marginalized communities, including foster children and youth—and building a more equitable and inclusive state of Oregon.”

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