RALEIGH, N.C. (August 10, 2015) - Five teenagers who grew up in foster care are hoping to beat the odds: They’re entering the Fostering Bright Futures program at Wake Tech Community College. The public-private partnership offers tutoring, mentoring, and financial support to former foster youth in Wake County, to help them earn a college degree. The program’s annual banquet was held tonight at the City Club in Raleigh.
“This program helps people help themselves,” said Wake Tech President Dr. Stephen Scott. “These young people have faced some pretty daunting circumstances, but they’re willing to work hard and deserve support along with opportunities for success.”
National statistics show that less than 10 percent of traditional, college-aged youth emerging from foster care enroll in post-secondary education, and only two percent actually graduate. Fostering Bright Futures has already helped a number of those aging out of the Wake County foster care system to beat those considerable “odds.” So far, seven students have earned an associate’s degree: Five have transferred to universities, and two are working in their field of study (dental assisting and plumbing).
At tonight’s banquet, recent graduates Keilia Scott and Christy Setola-Cyr were celebrated for their accomplishments. Scott graduated with an Associate in Applied Science degree in Cosmetology and plans to enroll at NC State University. Setola-Cyr earned an Associate in Arts degree and will start at Appalachian State University in the fall. She was awarded a special $5,000 scholarship, the Peggy Oliver Helgason Scholarship, named in honor of the donor, a Fuquay-Varina native.
Shena Thornton, President of the Sigma Tau Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, presented two $1,000 scholarships. This year’s recipients were Brianna Carter and Tamesha Pittman. Clarissa Epps received the Chairman’s Award.
In addition, students entering the Fostering Bright Futures program received laptops donated by Lenovo, a company that has supported the program since it began. “We consider it a privilege for Lenovo to be one of the first companies to contribute to this program,” says Lenovo’s Karen Ondrick. “The opportunities it provides are enormous.”
Keynote speaker Larry Perkins, V.P. and Assistant General Manager of the PNC Arena/Carolina Hurricanes, shared his own story of growing up in foster care and offered some encouraging words: “The hardships in your past have made you better prepared for the future,” he said. “You are already champions!”
Fifteen students are currently in the Fostering Bright Futures program, which started in 2009. Between 35 and 50 teens in the Wake County foster care system graduate from high school every year, but fewer than half are college ready. The Wake County Board of Commissioners recently voted to continue its commitment to Fostering Bright Futures, with $50,000 in funding for 2015.