Heather Nichols graduated from Western Michigan University in April with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. Nichols, a former foster youth, is the first four-year graduate of the Seita program—a scholarship program that sends foster youth to college tution free—but by no means of the imagination is Nichols the only student benefiting from the Seita Scholars program.
The idea for the Seita Scholars came about in 2007, when WMU financial aid director Mark Delorey, and two colleagues, heard John Seita speak at a conference. Seita, a former foster youth, spoke about his experiences at WMU, including a cold Thanksgiving he spent alone on campus.
“To me, being a Seita Scholar means everything…it gives me an opportunity to prove everybody wrong that ever had a negative thought about me.”
According to the Detroit Free Press, Michigan recently expanded the foster care age limitation from 18 to 21, which means even more students will have access to the Seita Scholars and other programs.
“Being a Seita Scholar means I’m not alone anymore.”
According to the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, a St.-Louis based nonprofit organization, one-in-five, or more, foster youth will be homeless after age 18; half will be employed at 24; fewer than three percent will earn a college degree by 25, and one-in-four will be incarcerated within two years of leaving foster care. However, with the Seita program these problems will decrease and more students will be able to receive a college education.
“I tell everyone about it (the Seita program). I’m proud. I’m proud of what I can do and I’m proud of what I’ve done. Look–four years. I did it.”
Seita Scholars Program