Homeless Youth in College Cite Textbook Costs and Hunger as Threats to Earning a Degree
As announced in a previous edition of News From The Heart, Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) received a generous grant from the Dreams R Us Foundation in December 2013. Portions of these funds were dedicated to ease the burden on homeless youth in college in New Jersey. Certain statistics indicate that the numbers of homeless or transitionally housed youth has risen by over 50% in several years. Some governmental programs help pay for fees and tuition for homeless youth in college but do not provide finances for requisite textbooks or other educational requirements. Of course, like most things, the price of books has continued to rise over time.
“Textbooks are hefty bills that amount to a knot in my stomach and an injury to my savings, instead of incredibly interesting and useful resources,” explained one applicant to the Breaking the Housing/Textbook Barrier Initiative. Once the student’s application was approved, FAFS and the Dreams R Us Foundation received a note saying, “My textbooks are no longer reminders of the financial sacrifices I make to stay afloat in college. I see them as sources of expertise, a way to broaden my interpretation of the world, and what my future career opportunities can be.”
Tara Rizzolo, M.S. Ed, and former FAFS Director of Scholarship Programs reports that 10 applications have been approved as of April 2014. “This exciting initiative provides a new resource to help deserving youth pursue their education. Among other things, it has helped supply textbooks and laptops, essential items for succeeding in a post-secondary education program, to students who would otherwise be unable to obtain these items. We are extremely grateful to the Dream R Us Foundation for this opportunity.” The New Jersey Foster Care Scholars Program has been administered by the FAFS Scholarship Department since its inception in 2003.
Requests to the program for textbook and laptop assistance were plentiful from homeless youth in college in New Jersey, but there were other, no less important, requests FAFS received as well. “Without the proper food, or always having to wonder what I am going to eat…will ultimately affect my school work. I pride myself on having a high GPA, as of right now it is a 3.67,” wrote an applicant.”It is one thing to be a college student and living away from your family at the age of twenty-one. However, it’s an altogether different thing to be a homeless twenty-one year old trying to make it through college and feed yourself while saving up for an apartment in the summer so you don’t have to go back to a shelter, which you will age out of. It is for this reason that I am asking for the educational support of a food card to Shop-Rite.”
“I do not want to live out on the street after I age out of a homeless shelter this summer,” the applicant continued. This isn’t how I want to end my four year college career. I want to walk across that stage…take that diploma in my hand and know that I have a place to sleep that night and a place to get ready for work.”
FAFS is seeking additional project funding via foundation and private sources. To make a gift to support the Breaking the Housing/Textbook Barrier Initiative, please contact a FAFS representative at 800.222.0047 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.