Oct. 8, 2019 — The University of Texas at San Antonio is enhancing its services for students with a history of foster care with the opening this fall of the new Fostering Educational Success Center. The center, a joint venture between the Division of Student Success and the Department of Social Work, is designed to help students with a history of foster care overcome the unique challenges they face in pursuing higher education. This new space is located on the second floor of the Student Union (SU 2.01.05) on the UTSA Main Campus.
“The mission of the FESC is to support all UTSA students who have a history of foster care through coaching, connecting students to resources on campus and in the community, and creating their own sense of community,” said Christopher Goldsberry, associate director of the center.
Goldsberry has served as UTSA’s foster care liaison since 2008, giving him the chance to witness the challenges faced by this population. According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, nearly 35,000 children are in the Texas foster care system. Research conducted in the state has shown that 33% of foster care alumni enroll in college, but just 1.3% graduate with a bachelor’s degree by age 24.
As of the fall 2019 census date, there are 116 students enrolled at UTSA who have a history of foster care.
Goldsberry believes the Fostering Educational Success Center can help improve these outcomes and support students by helping them meet their basic needs, connecting them with helpful resources, and providing a sense of community.
“This center is a bridge between the students and the university, a place where not only can help be found for school but a community for help with life,” said junior philosophy major Caroline Nolen, a UTSA student with a history of foster care. “By having a physical spot, it tells students with a history of foster care that there is a place for them and they are wanted.”
One service provided by the FESC is a hygiene pantry, which offers essentials such as deodorant, shampoo, Kleenex, laundry detergent, toothbrushes and toothpaste at no charge to the students the center serves. UTSA is also starting a new Supervised Independent Living program, which will provide housing, meals and support services for currently enrolled students who elect to extend foster care to age 21.
“The program is designed in conjunction with the center to help students with a history of foster care transition to independent living by supporting them through a university environment rather than an assigned foster home,” Goldsberry said.
The FESC hosted an open house in September to allow the UTSA community to visit the center and learn about its mission.
The center is complementary to a larger effort to reach out to youth in foster care throughout Bexar County. The Bexar County Fostering Educational Success Pilot Project, a county-wide collaboration between UTSA and other partners, was announced in September. This new pilot program will create an array of educational support resources for current and former foster care youth.
“Young people that age out of the foster care system are particularly vulnerable,” said Peggy Eighmy, first lady of UTSA and a key leader of the effort to obtain funding from the Texas Legislature for the Bexar County pilot project. “Many foster youth aspire to go to college, but only a very small percentage attend, and an even smaller number graduate. This new center is a tangible demonstration of UTSA’s commitment to supporting these Roadrunners to make sure they can succeed in college.”
To learn more about the Fostering Educational Success Center or to donate to the hygiene pantry, contact Christopher Goldsberry at Christopher.Goldsberry@utsa.edu or 210-458-6937.
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