WMU foster youth effort boosting its role as national training resource

contact: Cheryl Roland
| WMU News

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A signature part of Western Michigan University's successful program that helps former foster care youth find college success is getting national kudos and is the base for a new service to increase opportunities for students around the nation.

The University's Fostering Success Coach Training program, which grew out of one of the central elements of WMU's acclaimed Seita Scholars initiative, has recently completed its first year of offering professional training to more than 200 new coach mentors working in nine states.

With that full year of training to their credit and the coach-program effort now financially self-sustaining, WMU Fostering Success organizers are launching an intense fundraising effort to secure grants and private gifts that will allow them to continue the training program on a sound financial footing and offer trainee scholarships. The also want to expand the coach training staff, resources and tools.

"We've had an increasing number of requests from organizations for services," says Jamie Bennett, training specialist with the Center for Fostering Success. "We want to meet the growing need and are turning to those who know what this kind of support can mean to students. Our coaching outreach has become the gold standard nationally for producing professionals who can work successfully with young people who have experienced foster care."

The coach-mentor role is central to the success WMU has established in helping young people who have aged out of foster care succeed. The Seita Scholars program was launched by the University in 2008 to provide scholarships, a place to live year round and round-the-clock coaching and mentoring. The initiative has grown into the largest and most comprehensive such programs for foster youth in the nation, and this year it will see its 100th student earn a bachelor's degree.

The coaching portion of the program has been recognized internationally. Seita coaches traveled to the United Arab Emirates last winter to share information about the work at an international conference on student advising. Also last winter, Bennett was invited to do coach training for advisors in California's university system. The WMU program also hosted two youth leadership institutes in partnership with the celebrated Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative.

For more information on making a gift or becoming a sponsor, visit: mywmu.com/fosteringsuccess or contact Jamie Bennett by phone at (269) 387-8384 or by email at jamie.bennett@wmich.edu

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