Over their Winter Break from classes, many of the students in the Seita Scholars Program at WMU stayed with us in our Retreat Centre. Pretty Lake Camp is so proud to have been given the opportunity to support the students and the Seita Scholars Program in this way! Shout out to Ronicka Hamilton, Director of the Seita Scholars Program and Pretty Lake Camp Board Member for making this collaboration happen!
We thought that it would be a great opportunity to share about the amazing program in their own words sourced from their website. You can learn more by visiting https://wmich.edu/fosteringsuccess/.
The Seita Scholars Program is part of a larger initiative to change the college going paradigm of youth in the foster care system. We are a campus-based support program that provides holistic coaching and programming to college students with lived experience in foster care. For youth with experience in foster care, data shows only a range of 2-10%, earn a college degree at any point in their life. (Geiger & Beltran, 2017; Okpych et at., 2021; Legal Center, 2022).
WHAT IS THE SEITA SCHOLARSHIP?
- The Seita Scholarship is a scholarship that supports Western Michigan University students who have lived some or all of their teenage years in foster care. This WMU scholarship is named to honor Dr. John Seita, who is a three-time alumnus of WMU.
- The Seita Scholarship is designed to support students who have experienced foster care.
Growing up in foster care typically brings many additional challenges to Seita Scholars that are not often shared with the general student population. In addition to Seita Scholars Program staff, Seita Scholars also have support of many others on campus and in the community including:
- Seita Scholars First-Year Seminar instructors and student leaders
- Seita Scholars peer mentors
- AFSCME Local 1668 and other volunteers
- Career mentors
- Amazing staff members in other WMU departments and programs
The Seita Scholars program staff and Seita Scholars peer mentors work to level the playing field in seven life domains. Some examples of challenges faced by college students from foster care are:
- Education: Foster youth change high schools twice as often as non-foster youth, and as a result are more likely to be behind in English, math and science; trauma from childhood can compromise memory and ability to pay attention, thus interfering with learning.
- Finances and Employment: Foster youth are at a higher risk for identity theft; they are less likely to name someone that can lend them $50 to cover a money crisis; they also have difficulty identifying supports who are willing to co-sign loans.
- Housing and Transportation: Foster youth often have no home to return to during semester breaks when the residence halls close.
- Physical and Mental Well-Being: Foster youth are more likely to have ongoing health issues stemming from conditions of childhood and the foster-care experience; they have often missed out on the important information about nutrition, exercise and rest to support good health.
- Social Relationships and Community Connections: For most foster youth, growing up in foster care is an isolating experience; when leaving foster care many foster youth reconnect with biological families in an effort to make sense of their growing-up experience. However, some are never able to reestablish biological family ties.
- Personal and Cultural Identity: Young people who have grown up in foster care will tell you there is a culture to foster care that is not understood by other people in society. While most Seita Scholars entered foster care through Child Protective Services, about one in five Seita Scholars entered foster care as unaccompanied minors from third world countries (refugees).
- Life Skills: Foster youth must master complex life skills at very young ages in order to manage their lives as young adults; foster youth manage relationships with foster parents, attorneys and caseworkers; their budgeting skills must include understanding of fiscal years for financial aid and the Department of Health and Human Services; they are individually responsible for filing tax returns; they must also navigate Medicaid to get basic health care needs met.
FOSTER CARE FACTS
- Former foster youth have 2x’s the rate of U.S veterans PTSD
- 430,000 children are in foster care across the country at any given moment
- Every 10 seconds a report of child abuse is made
- More than 23,000 youth that age out of foster care each year
- “More than 400,000 children are in foster care in the United States.”-MDHHS
- “In Michigan there are more than 13,000 children in foster Care and over 300 who still need an adoptive family.” -MDHHS
- There is a huge need for families to foster/adopt older children, teens, and sibling groups
- “More than 23,000 children will age out of the US foster care system every year.”- The National Foster Youth Institute
- “After reaching the age of 18, 20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless.” – The National Foster Youth Institute
- “Only 1 out of every 2 foster kids who age out of the system will have some form of gainful employment by the age of 24.” – The National Foster Youth Institute
- “There is less than a 3% chance for children who have aged out of foster care to earn a college degree at any point in their life.” – The National Foster Youth Institute