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UTSA foster center is helping students achieve their full potential

UTSA foster center is helping students achieve their full potential

Incoming and transfer students attended Early Start Experience events to learn about UTSA’s academic programs, connect with peers and meet supportive staff.


SEPTEMBER 1, 2021 — The UTSA Fostering Educational Success Center (FESC), first launched in 2019, organizes resources and services for students with a history of living in foster care. The center is part of the university’s Student Success programming and is designed to help students with a history of foster care overcome the unique challenges they face in pursuing higher education.

This comprehensive, campus-based program offers basic needs such as food, scholarships, crisis funds and connection to the UTSA community. FESC staff and trauma-informed coaches are also trained to deliver services to help students develop life skills such as establishing healthy relationships, follow career-oriented goals, learn financial literacy skills, and how to connect with other critical resources.

“Students are excited about being involved with our center and we are able to (grow) in part because of their investment in our program.”

Other FESC services include:

  • Campus coaching
  • Emergency funds up to $300 a year to cover expenses for students experiencing a crisis
  • Laptop loaner program
  • Specialized workshops
  • Peer mentoring
  • Social activities
  • Connections to campus and community champions who can help advance students’ career interests

Additionally, UTSA offers the Supervised Independent Living program, which began in 2019. It provides housing, a full meal plan and a monthly-stipend for students who elect to extend foster care to age 21.

The number of students UTSA helps is growing. According to the FESC, seven in 10 students with a history of foster care at the university take advantage of the FESC’s services. This year alone, the university expects an incoming group of 103 students to engage with the center. This, in addition to its spring 2021 cohort of Tuition and Fee Waiver recipients, brings more than 200 students with a history of foster care to UTSA.

“Our eligible student population has grown tremendously over the last two years,” said FESC Associate Director Emily Marcotte. “We’re coming into our third year of operations with an anticipated 58% increase in the number of students we will be able to serve compared to 2019. Students are excited about being involved with our center and we are able to keep growing at such a rapid rate in part because of their investment in our program.”

One of the first events organized by the FESC each year is the Early Start Experience, a program that coordinates residential move-ins and a tailored orientation program. This fall’s program took place the week of Monday, August 16.

Forty incoming and transfer students attended the six-day event. During the Early Start Experience, the students learned about UTSA’s academic programs, connected with their peers through social activities and met supportive staff. The goal was to ensure a smooth transition to college by creating a sense of community with other students.

Programs like Early Start aim to have a significant impact on first-year retention, G.P.A. and navigating college life. This leads to stronger campus engagement, helps students persist through their studies and promotes graduation.

As part of the Early Start agenda, students listened to role models who have defied the odds. This year’s guest speaker was Roy Juarez Jr., an entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker who was homeless when he was a teen. Despite the odds, Juarez enrolled in college and obtained a degree. He launched a motivational speaking career in 2010. Now his mission is to urge youth to pursue academic opportunities and to understand the impact higher education can have in their lives.

The FESC also provides assistance through its dedicated pantry, where students can obtain essentials such as food and personal hygiene products in a safe space. This facility is located on the second floor of the Student Union (SU 2.01.05) on the UTSA Main Campus.

Milady Nazir

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