Only 3% of Foster Youth Graduate from College
Only 3% of foster youth graduate from college. This is not only alarming but detrimental when those same young people look for opportunities that align with their peers. Together We Rise is fortunate to be able to help current and former foster youth reach their academic goals through the Family Fellowship scholarship program. Sadly, it is not large enough to help every youth in care with educational dreams.
Today we chat with ShawnaRae Bruch a former foster youth and a new graduate of Carroll University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health. We asked her to give us insight as a former foster youth/graduate from college.
Q. What is the most Defining/Challenging Experience You Had in Foster Care?
A. My most defining and challenging times that I had while I was in care was when I would switch schools almost every year. I’ve been to a total of 10 different schools in 8 different towns in 3 different states. I can’t lie and say that each school was better than the next. They each had a different curriculum and new friends, but one thing always stayed the same… there were kids who would always bully me.
Each year was always so different. Every time I would make new friends and would always end up crying because I knew I was going to leave them in the end. It was very hard on me and I never understood why this was happening. All I ever wanted was to be adopted and find my forever home. I wasn’t supposed to graduate on time either because I was always switching schools. Thankfully my last school understood and helped me by giving me the credits that were needed to get my high school diploma. In the end it was worth all the sacrifices. I never got my forever home but now that I’m done with school, I can create my own forever home.
Q. If You Could Give One Piece of Advice to Someone in Foster Care Who is Interested in Pursuing a College Education, What Would it Be?
A piece of advice I would give someone who is experiencing foster care and wanting to seek higher education would be to never let money hold you back. Never let the words of others define what you want in life.
While I was in care, I had a foster mother who told me that I wasn’t good enough for a four-year degree. That I would never have the money to pay for it. These words were mean, but they made me stronger. I worked hard for every penny I earned and put it all towards my education.
I knew that I wanted to have a bachelor’s degree and I knew what college I wanted to go to. Not once did I have her words or anyone else’s including money hold me back. I am so happy to say that I just graduated this year with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health at Carroll University. This degree may have taken me five years to complete and had many struggles along the way, but I am overwhelmed with job and happiness.
Q. What do you Think the Foster Care System has Taught You?
One thing that the foster care system taught me was the definition of what a family is. I’ve been to many foster homes and some were awesome, some were just ok. Overall, they each still helped me understand what a family is.
When I lived with my bio-mother I thought everything that she did was normal. Clearly, it wasn’t normal since I left. But I never knew there was a difference. I thought that what I was experiencing was what everyone else was experiencing. Being a part of these foster families even for a short time helped me grow into the lovely woman I am now. I am thankful to have known each of them and I do stay in contact with most. Some still even include me in their family which has always made me happy.
Q. What did You Need Most When Emancipating from the Foster Care System and Starting College?
When I was aging out of foster care and on my way to college, I was clueless. Even when I officially aged out at the age of 21, I had no knowledge of many things. As I was experiencing college all by myself, I found things my roommates knew that I never did.
Sometimes I felt like I was dumb. During this time, I felt like I had no one supporting me. Yes, there were people supporting me but not actually there supporting me. My Independent Living Coordinator was 2 counties away and I didn’t know anyone who was a former foster youth like me at my college, so I had no one to relate too. I didn’t want to bring it up because already I felt so different, I was so alone.
I felt so alone and dumb and it made me sad and confused. This lasted maybe a couple of years before I found people that were similar to me. Everything did change after that. I made friends and I was happy to know I had people to lean on if I ever needed help. Truly, I think that I needed to be connected to people who were similar to me. I feel like if I knew someone there at my college it would have been easier starting out. College sure was an eye-opener for me since I did start out alone, but it made me so strong and resilient every year I went back.
In conclusion, we want to thank ShawnaRae Bruch for sharing her story with us. The insight of a former foster youth college graduate it was wonderful to learn about her experience.