Tuesday, April 23, 2024

UTSA increases resources to support growing needs of students formerly in foster care

UTSA increases resources to support growing needs of students formerly in foster care

UTSA Fostering Educational Success Center Outreach Coordinator Teniola Agbesanwa restocks the food pantry available for students receiving support from the center.

MARCH 17, 2022 — The UTSA Fostering Educational Success Center (FESC) is working to further its reach to meet the growing needs of students with a history of foster care. The FESC helps hundreds of UTSA students overcome the challenges they face in pursuing a college degree. With another 400 prospective students expressing interest in attending UTSA this coming fall, this is a pivotal moment in the history of the FESC.

The center, which is part of the Bexar County Fostering Educational Success Project (BCFES), is a UTSA Students Success program. Generously funded and supported by the Texas Legislature, the BCFES is a UTSA-led collaboration with Texas A&M University-San Antonio, the Alamo Colleges District, the Bexar County Children’s Court, and Child Advocates San Antonio that serves as a national model for student success to develop programs and practices to guide students with a history of foster care —as young as middle school—as they navigate the world of higher education.

“This county-wide initiative is vital in helping students understand that higher education is an option they can pursue,” said Tammy Wyatt, UTSA vice provost for student success. “Navigating university life is challenging for any student so it’s important that we establish all-encompassing support, especially for our students with high-priority needs. The FESC works to ensure students served by the center know they belong.”

“Inclusive, innovative services like these help our students feel like they belong at UTSA and that our program staff truly care about them.”

The UTSA center recently moved from the Student Union to a larger space on the second floor of the Multidisciplinary Studies Building (MS 2.03.02), which has allowed it to grow its service capacities, according to FESC Associate Director Emily Marcotte. She leads a team at the UTSA Main Campus striving to get students through the doors of the university and keep them on track toward graduation. The main goal: providing consistent support to help students through the process of college and assure they prosper along the way.

The new space helps elevate the efforts of the center, which offers an array of educational and personal support services, such as a well-stocked food pantry, study room and space to connect with other students.

“Reopening campus services in our new space, seeing students who have been a part of our program come to the center and now bringing in such large groups of new students tells us that it is time to take what we can do for students who have a history of foster care to the next level,” Marcotte said.

FESC’s dedicated Outreach Coordinator Teniola Agbesanwa engages with prospective students, informing them about tuition waivers and aiding them with the application process. Once enrolled, students are not forgotten. The center’s Campus Coach Yulia Vela-Cadena sees students through the semester to identify resources and basic services tailored to the individual needs of students.

Knowing the diverse population of students it serves, FESC offers financial assistance to offset childcare expenses for students with demonstrated need through the Kaylee Rosales Memorial Child Care Fund. New funding from a private donation matched by Genentech also allows the center to expand its service scope by sponsoring a clothing closet for students preparing for professional interviews.

“Inclusive, innovative services like these help our students feel like they belong at UTSA and that our program staff truly care about them,” Marcotte said. “We want our students to know we hear you, and we are here for you.”

Students served by the center are empowered to connect with one another and create community. A dedicated student has shaped the beginning of a registered student organization, forming Student Empowerment through Engagement and Networking (SEEN) in November 2021.

The organization credits a student’s statement as the inspiration for the name: “It was not until receiving the invitation from the FESC that I felt seen.”

UTSA sophomore finance major Jaz Montemayor, who serves as SEEN President, became involved to give back. Having a role in the organization means a lot, she said, especially as someone who experienced foster care herself.

“Student success is the main goal,” Montemayor said. “We want to prove that students can succeed and that there are many support systems they are going to have along the way.”

SEEN also gives the students an opportunity to give back, participating in outreach programs such as UTSA Day of Service and the Cardboard Kids Initiative.

Since FESC opened in 2019, its staff has supported over 30 students who have completed their UTSA degrees. Marcotte envisions this support system extending beyond the UTSA campus. The FESC staff continues exploring partnership opportunities to enhance services to students and graduates.

“The FESC team has placed tremendous effort into the growth of the center,” Wyatt added. “In a short span of time, they’ve increased awareness of services, relationships with funding partners to further financial assistance for students and opportunities to help students advance in their college careers. We hope our center serves as a model of success and innovation for other programs in the state and nation.”

Ari Castañeda

UTSA Today is produced by University Strategic Communications,
the official news source
of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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UTSA Today is produced by University Communications and Marketing, the official news source of The University of Texas at San Antonio. Send your feedback to news@utsa.edu. Keep up-to-date on UTSA news by visiting UTSA Today. Connect with UTSA online at Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.



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