More than 200 former and current foster care youth looking to create brighter futures for themselves recently received a helping hand from the Park West Foundation.
The foundation held its 5th Annual Jump Shot Your Future college fair on January 28 at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History in Detroit. Foster care youth ages 14 to 25 were able to meet face-to-face with more than 300 education, employment, and life skills resources.
Events like these are vital because, according to a study from the National Foster Youth Institute, youth who have aged out of foster care have a less than 3 percent chance to earn a college degree during their lifetime.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reports that more than 13,000 youth are in the state’s foster care system, 300 of whom do not have an identified adoptive family. As a result, many individuals leave the foster care system without a family or any means of support.
Park West Foundation Program Director Saba Gebrai was pleased with the turnout this year and praised the 100 youth advocates who helped coordinate the event. Following this year’s success, Gebrai is expecting more than 500 foster care youth to attend next year’s fair.
“The kids get very scared of being left out there with nothing when aging out, so we want them to plan for life coming out of the state’s care,” Gebrai says. “We want to eliminate that worry…we want them to have supportive, caring adults around them and have a very solid plan with goals so they can live life without that fear.”
Local media such as WXYZ Channel 7 and WDIV Local 4 spoke with attendees about the event’s impact on Michigan foster care youth. Veunita Garrison, a youth leader and advocate, said events like Jump Shot Your Future help normalize the idea of foster care while also providing opportunities and resources for foster students to succeed.
“It lets them know that they’re not alone and that they will make mistakes, but they can come back from that, they can be resilient and successful,” Garrison said.
Jameshia Shepherd, a youth education liaison, echoed Garrison’s sentiments, saying Jump Shot Your Future emphasizes that college is an attainable goal for foster care youth.
“We are leveling the playing field,” Shepherd said. “Everybody is getting a chance, an opportunity.”
Established in 2006 by Park West Gallery Founder and CEO Albert Scaglione and his wife, Mitsie, the Park West Foundation supports youth aging out of foster care in Southeastern Michigan. The foundation has since expanded to support initiatives promoting art education and environmental conservation.
Visit the Park West Foundation website for more information on its charitable efforts.