For many young people, college is both a major milestone of adulthood as well as a necessary step forward in their career path. For youth who have experienced foster care, there are resources to help with college admissions and persistence.
Great Expectations is a program that is available at 21 of the 23 community colleges in Virginia. This program supports young adults from foster care and special needs adoptions as they apply for community college, and subsequently coaches these students throughout the entirety of their community college experience. Students can elect to continue receiving support through Great Expectations when they transfer to a four-year college or university.
At Germanna Community College, Great Expectations students can participate in a summer bridge to jump-start their readiness for college, attend monthly socials and non curricular events to build friendships, receive one-on-one coaching, work with peer and adult mentors, and receive special scholarships and grants when applicable. Students can become involved with Great Expectations as early as their junior year of high school (or at age 16). Studies show that students who begin thinking about college early are more likely to graduate with degrees, so high school Great Expectations students are invited to special events on campus regularly. This helps them begin building a positive impression of college and higher education and helps them connect with current college students.
Great Expectations students at Germanna can also sometimes receive financial support to pursue noncredit programs through the Center for Workforce and Community Education. From CISCO IT certifications to electrical and plumbing apprenticeships, noncredit courses are designed to help individuals learn the necessary skills to begin a lucrative career. Young adults who were in foster care at the time of their eighteenth birthday are eligible for funding that can cover the entire cost of workforce training courses. These students receive the same coaching and support as students attending traditional degree programs at Germanna.
All Great Expectations students have the opportunity to apply for the statewide leadership ambassador program, where they can make a real and visible impact on legislation regarding foster care in Virginia. Successful second-year Great Expectations students at Germanna can also apply to serve as a peer mentor to incoming students. Both of these opportunities are great resume-builders!
All students who have been in foster care after their thirteenth birthday are eligible to apply for federal financial aid as independent students. This means that their grant eligibility will be based solely on their financial information, rather than including household income from their foster family, adoptive family, or biological family. For many students, this means they will receive a full Pell grant, which will completely cover the cost of tuition, fees, and textbooks at community college. Pell grants, unlike student loans, do not need to be paid back. In many cases, this means that foster youth and former foster youth can complete an Associate-level degree completely free! At a four-year college or university, a full Pell grant will cover a substantial amount of tuition, but scholarships or loans will probably be necessary to cover the difference.
College is a powerful and transformative time in a young person’s life. Current and former foster youth can connect with Great Expectations to get support navigating classes, personal life, financial aid, and future planning. Foster youth who attend any college or university can apply for financial aid as an independent student, and possibly attend college for free!
More information about federal financial aid for foster youth is available here: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/fafsa-dependency.pdf.
Additional financial support for foster youth through the Education and Training Voucher program is available here in English: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/foster-youth-vouchers.pdf and in Spanish: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/foster-youth-vouchers-spanish.pdf.
For more information about Great Expectations at Germanna Community College, please visit www.germanna.edu/great-expectations or email the Great Expectations Coach, Taylor Landrie, at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn about Great Expectations statewide or to find a Great Expectations contact at a different community college in Virginia, visit www.greatexpectations.vccs.edu.
Taylor Landrie is the Great Expectations Coach at Germanna Community College. Taylor has worked with Great Expectations for two years. Prior to her work with Great Expectations, Taylor served in student support capacities at Germanna. Taylor first began working with youth from special populations when she served as an AmeriCorps member in a program that improved literacy skills for low-income children and teens. She later worked with homeless and housing insecure teenagers and young adults. Taylor graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in leadership studies in 2013 from Marietta College in Marietta, OH.