Going to college can be tough for many students in Michigan, and even more challenging for those who have gone through foster care.
The Michigan Education Trust held a fundraiser Thursday afternoon for the Fostering Futures Scholarship Trust Fund; a scholarship that is given to qualified students who have experienced foster care and are enrolled in a Michigan college or university.
For $5, attendees got a slice of pizza, ice cream and a drink, but the event was more than about just the lunch. All the proceeds went to the scholarship program and benefit students like Wanda Barrious.
“This is the biggest help I’ve ever got because, honestly, I don’t think I would have made it to school without it,” Barrious said.
Barrious was in foster care and now is enrolled at Western Michigan University. Slated to graduate next summer, she said she wants to be a social worker after seeing how important the social workers in her life have been.
The Fostering Futures Scholarship provides up to $3,000 a year for qualifying recipients and Executive Director Robin Lott said almost 400 scholarships were awarded to students in 2017.
Since the money can be used for other expenses college students face besides tuition, Barrious said the funds helped her stay in school during breaks.
“Well where’s home? ya know,” she said. “I had nowhere to go, so this allowed me to stay in housing on campus.”
She added that the money not only helped with breaks, it helped keep her get to WMU in the first place.
A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2016 foster care report says 437,465 children were in the foster care system. That number is the highest since 2012. In Michigan, approximately 13,000 children in foster care, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Lott said nationwide, only 10 percent of former foster care children go to college and only three percent graduate.
Barrious feels that knowing there are programs like the Fostering Future Scholarship Trust Fund available and people donate is a healthy change for her.
“It’s such a great feeling to know that there are people who don’t even know you trying to get through your education,” she said.
The Fostering Futures Scholarship Trust Fund is under the umbrella of the Michigan Department of Treasury. For the first time, this scholarship will appear on the state income tax form, allowing people to donate to the fund directly from their tax return.
Over the last six years, the pizza party fundraiser has more than $30,000. The amount has not been tallied from the seventh annual event.
Another fundraiser will be held in Detroit on Thursday, Sept. 20.
For more information about the fundraiser, or other details, visit the scholarship website.