It is once again college acceptance season - a time when high school seniors (and nontraditional students) receive acceptance, rejection or wait list letters from the colleges of their choice. Those with more than one acceptance will debate the pros and cons of various alma maters, while also figuring out financial aid, completing FAFSA and reviewing the logistics of living close to home or farther away.
For youth in foster care, this process is more complicated. In fact, the lead up to a college acceptance is more complicated, as the young people navigate not just the financial implications of attending college but also the systemic requirements of being a youth in care on or off campus. Those who have aged out of foster care are most likely trying to determine how they will support themselves through the next 2 or 4 or more years and scrambling to find, if not understand, the resources available to them.
What young people need in these weeks/months, as they consider their next steps are support systems - people who can take them on campus tours, college professionals who can talk to them about campus resources and programming, someone - anyone - who understands FAFSA, and more. But what they need first and forever ongoing is someone who will say “You can do this.”
Resources, programming and support networks are amazing and necessary. However, they don’t take the place of confidence, motivation and belief in one’s self. Those are hard things to muster when you’re a teen, let alone a young person in foster care. At the R.J. Leonard Foundation, we strive to be the voice of Yes You Can. We believe in our Fellows and work to help them believe in themselves, because we know they can do this.