Less than 10 percent of Michigan’s foster care children who graduate high school enroll in college. Less than 1 percent of those who do go on to college will graduate. In spite of these bleak odds, the Fostering Futures Scholarship Trust Fund is taking strides to improve these statistics.
“Park West Foundation connected me with Wayne County Community College and from there I got connected…to the scholarship,” scholarship recipient Ashley Smith said.
Smith, a foster youth assisted by the Park West Foundation, exemplified the importance of supporting foster care youth on display during the 2017 Fostering Futures Scholarship dinner, held on September 28 at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
According to the Michigan Education Trust, 70 percent of teens who leave the foster care system want to attend college, but fewer than 10 percent who graduate from high school actually enroll in college. Unfortunately, when foster care children age out of the system, most of them lack the resources needed to attend college.
As part of its mission to support foster care youth, the Park West Foundation sponsored the Fostering Futures Scholarship dinner. All proceeds from the dinner benefit the Fostering Futures Scholarship Trust Fund.
The fund grants scholarships for tuition, fees, room and board, books, and supplies to young adults who have been in foster care. More than 70 Michigan colleges and universities participate in the scholarship.
Guests were encouraged to give generously through participating in silent auctions, raffles, and a “Raise Your Paddle” event where guests donated specific amounts of money to cover everything from school supplies and parking passes to computers.
Gail Perry-Mason, the keynote speaker and former foster youth, succinctly summed up the need to give succinctly by drawing upon her financial industry knowledge.
“The best investment we can ever make is our youth,” Perry-Mason said. “The dividends live on forever.”
Smith, who earned an associate’s degree from Wayne County Community College and is pursuing a Bachelor’s of Communications, is living proof of returned investments. Smith, like other foster care youth, hopes to one day provide assistance to other foster youth similar to what she received from the Park West Foundation.
“I’m looking to see where communications leads me, but I want to focus on helping youth,” Smith said.
Another successful story of triumphing youth in attendance was famed philanthropist Charles Mully. Abandoned at age 6, Mully had to fend for himself, and through hard work became a millionaire. However, he gave it all up to establish Mully Children’s Family, a Christian organization that works with disadvantaged youth in Kenya.
A movie based on his life and career, titled “Mully,” will premier October 3–5 in 800 select theaters. The Park West Foundation will receive its own special viewing on October 3 at the AMC Classic Fairlane Theater in Dearborn.
Those who couldn’t attend the benefit dinner can still contribute to the scholarship by visiting the Fostering Futures website. Students interested in applying for the 2018 year can do so from March 15, 2018 to June 30.