Fostering Student Success on Campus
Eckerd Connects awarded a grant of $145,054 to the University of Central Oklahoma Foundation for the Fostering Student Success initiative, a program designed to increase retention and enrollment for former foster youth.
“Right now foster youth have about a two to four percent graduation rate, so if you ask foster youth in the schools how many of them would like to go to college, 80 percent of them say they would like to go,” said Anna Doughty, mental health counselor at UCO and one-stop resource for FSS. “Fifty percent of them nationwide actually enroll and two to four percent actually graduate.”
Doughty said she works on what happens between that 50 percent of who enroll and that two to four percent of who graduate. Her goal is to get that two to four percent to 100 percent former foster graduates.
“They have so many obstacles to overcome without the support and guidance of a caring adult,” said David Dennis, CEO of Eckerd Connects, in a press release. “This initiative is designed to put them on a college and career pathway.”
UCO has 412 students who identified as a ward of the court on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for the Fall 2018 semester, but after some outreach there are about 362 students remaining.
“Some of them didn’t come to UCO and some of them checked the box accidentally,” Doughty said. “So as I am calling, the list is getting smaller. I think I still have 362, but some of those calls haven’t been returned and I can’t tell if everybody is getting the email, so it is unclear”
In terms of outreach efforts, Doughty has tried calling, emailing, putting up flyers and attending events like the Student Involvement fair.
“I’m trying to think, how do you identify a group that does not want to be identified and how do you contact a group that does not want to be contacted,” said Doughty.
Along with this program, there is a student organization for Fostering Student Success. Doughty said that she wants the student organization to be making decisions about outreach, group workshops, community building and other resources that are needed.
The first meeting for the FSS student organization was held last Thursday in Thatcher Hall Room 328.
FSS offers levels of service in: general information, student organization, resources, resource planning, group workshops and counseling.
“My goal is to be available but not intrusive, and that’s a challenging position, particularly as I try to get initial information out about the services I offer,” Doughty said.
Julia Reed, senior director for the Center of Counseling and Wellbeing said this program also includes helping former foster youth with things on campus like filling out FAFSA, applying for Oklahoma’s Promise, ordering books, nutrition, basic finance and anything else students who don’t have someone to contact may need help with.
“We just want to empower the former foster youth to reach a space where they want to be and not feel so isolated and alone,” Reed said.
The grant was awarded to FSS and the UCO Foundation in July, which is when work began to get the program going. Funding from the grant is going toward Doughty’s salary, a new position for someone who will work within a high school for outreach, office supplies and furniture.
“Eckerd is funding it for three years and then UCO is funding it hopefully for an extra two, so theoretically we have a five-year timeframe to build the program to be successful,” Doughty said.
The new high school position has not been selected yet, but Doughty has been doing some high school outreach.
The program is primarily run by Doughty, meaning she has multiple different responsibilities including: outreach, one-on-one support, therapy services, facilitating group workshops, trauma recovery support and being a full-time case manager.
“I’ve been doing a lot of email outreach and a lot of my time has gone into in-depth research, but I hope to devote a lot of my time to one-on-one time with students,” Doughty said.
Reed said through the work with FSS, Doughty is working on prevention, intervention and connection.
FSS is a Center of Counseling and Well-Being program, so Reed supervises Doughty, but the program is ultimately run by Doughty.
“We hope that we can create a campus-based model that other people may want to replicate, more than just having a point person, but having a network for foster students on campus,” Reed said.