Embarking on a college career can be a daunting experience for incoming freshmen. This may be even more the case for students who come from foster care and don’t have the security and support of a home environment.
With support from the Lumina Foundation, Ann Brown, assistant professor of social work and director of the Social Science Research Center, helped create a program to assist former foster youth in meeting their postsecondary educational objectives. The Guardian Scholars program, in collaboration with the east central Indiana branches of Ivy Tech Community College, was launched in 2004. Thanks to significant additional funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Ball Brothers Foundation, the program continues to serve students.
The program provides support services to approximately 30 former foster youth attending Ball State or Ivy Tech. These services range from helping new students navigate the ins and outs of the financial aid office and registration to helping students find housing during school breaks. The service structure includes emotional support during times of crisis or causes for celebration.
Brown is happy to report that in the few years since the program’s inception, several scholars have celebrated their graduations. She says, “To help these students succeed at something they didn’t think was possible is an incredibly rewarding experience.”
Many of the Guardian Scholars Program students give a great deal of credit to the program for their success. One Ball State sophomore says, “The Guardian Scholars Program makes it easy to get things done. I never knew the campus had so many ways to help students.”
Beyond the campuses of Ball State and Ivy Tech, the Guardian Scholars Program works with Muncie and Delaware County high schools to present college study as a feasible option to foster youth contemplating their lives after high school. Letting the students know that a college degree is attainable and that they will have a support system available on campus helps high school students feel more comfortable and confident pursuing higher education.