Foster program sees success

headshot: Jessica Campbell
Jessica Campbell, program coordinator and campus coach, for Fostering Laker Success
Image credit - University Communications

Since it was established in 2017, Fostering Laker Success has continued to help students who have experienced foster care adjust to college life and beyond.

Jessica Campbell, program coordinator and campus coach, said the program is designed to support students as they get acclimated to life on a college campus and beyond.

Participants in the program receive key guidance to life on and off campus, guided by seven life domains: basic needs, finances and employment, physical and mental health, cultural and personal identity, Grand Valley community experiences and supportive relationships, life skills and destination planning, and education. 

Campbell said she believes that giving students who have been through foster care guidance on those core aspects of life will help them succeed academically.

"For me, to see a student who was afraid to talk to a professor now being able to talk independently with the professor, or see a student who was hungry and without stable housing now eating regularly and living on campus, that's how we know the program is working,” Campbell said.

Every student receives a mentor who can help with any personal or academic issues. Additionally, all participants meet monthly for activities. In November, students will gather for a community dinner to learn about nutrition and how to make easy, healthy meals.

“We had two students who have said that if it wasn't for Fostering Laker Success, they were on their way of dropping out,” Campbell said. “They just felt they didn't have the support. So those little anecdotes are really what fuel me to do the work.”

Along with assisting students in foster care, students who have experienced homelessness are also welcome to join the program. Other universities have similar programs as permanent resources on campus, and Campbell hopes Grand Valley will do the same after the three-year grant has ended. 

Grand Valley received a $375,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to run a three-year pilot program. Campbell's office is housed in the Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity.

“I'm really excited for Grand Valley to take that next step to invest in the program and make it permanent, so students know there will always be something here for them,” Campbell said.

More information on the program, including how to become a mentor, can be found online

— written by Olivia Conaty, student writer


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