Fostering Success: CSU Staff and Foster Students Defy the Odds with New Program

According to Erin L. Pitts, co-chair of the Fostering Success program, about 2 percent of former foster youth will earn a college degree. With a fairly new program, CSU staff and students are fostering success for independent youth and or students from orphaned backgrounds.

“CSU is well positioned to be the school of choice for high performing students who have extremely underrepresented backgrounds,” Pitts said.

Ad

“I was sitting there thinking, it’s $200 to take this class and $160 to take the test,” said April Croghan, senior human development major. Thanks to CSU staff volunteers, that is now completely paid for.

Not too long ago, Croghan transferred to CSU from the University of Northern Colorado with little money or support. Before that she lived with a distant aunt and uncle, and before that, she was a foster child.

Before she came to CSU, she felt alone and expected to feel the same way once she arrived. Even though Croghan had a parent and some relatives in the states, she lacked any significant financial or emotional support.

“Even though my aunt and uncle are there, they still aren’t there. They don’t financially support me, (but) once and a while I can call them and talk,” Croghan said.

Her mom suffers from a mental disability and concerning her dad, Croghan said “He didn’t really want to accept me until later.”

Financial support is absent from both parents. She attends CSU as an independent student who is responsible for her own finances.

One day, a CSU staff worker invited her to a homemade dinner and had let her know of a program called Fostering Success. After attending the event, she made a lasting connection with students and faculty there.

“They volunteer but not really, it’s not like a service project to them. They just love the kids,” Croghan said. “I think the best part of having the faculty is that you can ask them anything.”

Independent students like Croghan are a minority at CSU. Fostering Success has become available as a great resource and provides support for independent students.

Terrance Harris, a junior social work major, originally did not want to be in the program.

Ad

“My mom died and my brother joined the military,” said Terrance Harris, junior social work major.

After talking to other students in the program he said he felt connected.

“The majority of people that go to college have at least a parent, but when you have none, you feel like you’re all alone,” Harris said.

The program provides support in regards to FAFSA, scholarship applications and personal financial counseling. The most important part, according to Harris, is that he had never been connected to people as easily as he had in the program.

“The most important part is connecting to students just like you,” Harris said.

The program started in 2010, after faculty and staff recognized a need on campus.

“We actually don’t have any paid staff. We don’t have an office, we don’t have a computer, (and) we don’t have anything associated with this program,” Pitts said.

The Fostering Success program supports students by sending care packages, hosting home-cooked dinner events, helping filling out FAFSA and providing an environment of support from both students and participating professionals.

They identify the students by reviewing admissions and financial aid applications. Outreach begins promptly after a student is identified as a possible participant. From there, the Fostering Success program reaches out to the student via email or phone call.

Since then, the program has grown significantly. The program currently supports multiple groups of people in similar scenarios. They now support students from different backgrounds in foster care, kinship care, group homes, ward of the state  students, orphaned students, legally emancipated students and unaccompanied students.

Pitts said if there was one phrase that explained the program it would be, “advocating for the over looked.”

In the future, she sees the program having a full-time paid director with a space for involved students and faculty to use.

CSU is a part of a small handful of universities that offer these types of services to students. According to Pitts, this program could lead the way for others to emulate such services.

Collegian Reporter Shawn Brown can be reached at news@collegian.com.