KALAMAZOO—Mark Delorey, director of student financial aid and scholarships at Western Michigan University, has been honored by a national organization for his work on behalf of both homeless students and those who have aged out of foster care.
Delorey, one of the principals in developing WMU's Seita Scholars program for former foster care youth, was awarded the 2012 Distinguished Service and Leadership Award by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. He received the accolade Sunday, Oct. 28, at the organization's annual conference in Albuquerque, N.M. This is the first time the award has gone to a higher education professional.
Since 2010, Delorey has been collaborating with homeless advocates to provide the students they work with access to and opportunities in higher education. His articles and presentations, organization leaders say, "have informed, educated and inspired financial aid professionals to understand and accept homeless youth into their institutions."
Delorey was lauded in a series of nomination letters from around the country for serving as a liaison between the world of collegiate financial aid officers and advocates for homeless youth. Several professionals who nominated him for the award pointed to difficulties homeless youth often have in documenting their status and lauded Delorey for offering other financial aid officers tips and encouragement to ease the process.
"Mark has become not only a partner with Michigan's McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Programs in serving homeless youth," wrote one nominator, "he has become an advocate for homeless youth to the financial aid field in high education...Mark has combined his understanding of higher education and student financial aid and his deep compassion for vulnerable youth to become a true champion for our homeless youth."
Delorey has been WMU's top financial aid officer since 2004. Earlier in his career, he held similar positions at Northern Michigan University, the University of Michigan-Flint, GMI Engineering and Management Institute in Flint and the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind. He began his financial aid career at Kalamazoo College, where he served as assistant director of financial aid from 1983 to 1985.
In 2007, Delorey and two campus colleagues developed the idea of having WMU launch a program to support young people who have aged out of foster care with scholarships, a year-round place to live on campus and a personal and academic support network. The program, commonly known as the Seita Scholars program, was launched in 2008 and has become the largest and most comprehensive such program in the nation. It now serves more than 160 students who were formerly part of Michigan's foster care system.
National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth conference
The NAEHCY annual conference is the only event of its kind in the nation and offers professional development and networking opportunities for about 1,000 attendees who work with young people who may be defined under federal legislation as homeless youth. Such students qualify for financial aid as independent students under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Under the act, homeless youth can apply for federal financial aid for college as independent students.