By Bonnie Loughner, Assistant Vice President, Fostering College Success Initiative
At The Foundling, we believe that education opens the doors of opportunity for children and young adults, and academic support is a prominent component of the work we do. Students in foster care often lack the support systems they need for academic success, and too often don’t graduate college as a result. By providing mentorship, tutoring, and other forms of support, the Fostering College Success Initiative (FCSI) works to fill this need. The Foundling partners with New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and City University of New York (CUNY) to produce this program, and together we provide opportunities and resources to help college students beat the odds.
In the past year, the program has had some exciting developments.
Increasing our Reach
We’re expanding the network of schools we partner with, providing more young people in foster care with the opportunity to join the program and receive support. Although 95% of our college students are enrolled in CUNY, we now also have students attending College of Mount Saint Vincent, Pace University, SUNY Binghamton, SUNY Alfred State, SUNY Broome Community College, and the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Expanding Career Opportunities
In the past, the Fostering College Success Initiative program has focused mostly on connecting students with college coaches and tutors, but we’re now looking beyond that to the next step—guiding them to employment. In summer 2020, we added a Career Counseling unit to the services we provide, and in 2021 we were able to expand these services in partnership with the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation. Our dedicated team of career counselors helps students with resumes, cover letters, mock interviews, and networking. We also connect them to opportunities like job fairs, panels, career events, and job/internship placements.
We’re also working on bolstering our partnerships, with the goal of increasing access to unique and targeted internship opportunities for our students.
For example, for the first time this summer – and with the assistance of our partners at ACS – we were able to coordinate an internship program as a paid professional development program through DYCD’s Summer Youth Employment program. For six weeks, students with an interest in business were paired with mentors from Goldman Sachs and attended sessions focusing on personal finance, job advice, and professional development. In addition to learning job skills and receiving mentorship, the students also worked on marketing-themed projects that provided Goldman Sachs with actionable data they’ll use to recruit and retain diverse talent. Previously, students who’ve completed programs like this one were ultimately hired by the company.
In addition to Goldman Sachs, FCSI’s internship program has also placed our students in office positions within the NYPD, ACS, and Borough of Manhattan Community College.
Inspiring and Connecting Students
As a source of inspiration for our students, we’ve launched a quarterly Speaker Series that highlights the voices of prior youth in care. These adults, who are now successful business professionals, know what it’s like to be in the foster care system, and how to move past these challenges to lead a successful life. Not only do these speakers inspire and provide motivation for students, they’re also a source of practical insight and guidance. We hope to attract future speakers from across the country to participate.
We also launched our new Fostering College Success Initiative website, which contains an online portal for everything our students need—announcements, events, etc. Also, while the program had previously enrolled students at the beginning of each semester, we now have moved towards rolling admissions, allowing us to support students as soon as they need assistance.
All the college residences of the schools our students attend are now open after being closed last year during the pandemic. Many of our students are back in dorms, while others have opted to stay in the community with friends, family, or foster parents. While some of our students have returned to in-person classes, others became comfortable with online learning and prefer to continue that way. We also have students returning for a fresh start after taking a break year during the pandemic. Regardless of their path, they’ve been so resilient, and we’re there to help make adapting and adjusting easier.
The Foundling is committed to providing our students in care with the tools and opportunities that allow them to achieve success. That’s why we’re always tailoring our programs, expanding our reach, and opening doors to meet the needs of our students in the ever-changing academic and career landscape.
The Foundling’s Fostering College Success Initiative program is generously supported by the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation and the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation.