A UW-Stout program that encourages the enrollment and retention of students from a foster care background has received a state award.
Fostering Success, which started at UW-Stout in 2014, focuses on meeting with foster students who attend the university and provide them with support, said Angie Ruppe, the program’s director.
The UW System Board of Regents announced Monday that Fostering Success won one of its Diversity Awards, which “recognize individuals and programs that foster access and success for students who are members of historically underrepresented populations,” a press release states. The Diversity Award recipient is awarded $7,500 to continue development of the program.
“We are so excited,” Ruppe said Monday. “Recognition is great, but I’m more proud of our program. This gift, this grant, will make a major impact on the lives of these students.”
Fostering Success was a first-of-its-kind program in the UW System when it was founded. In 2017, Fostering Success had 15 students in the program. In 2019, 69 new freshmen stated they were eligible for the program. Roughly 80% of those students were retained at the university, compared to about 69% retention rate of the general student population, the press release states.
Ruppe said foster care students face uphill challenges coming out of high school because they lack a traditional family support.
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“They have very limited family support, or it’s complicated relationships,” Ruppe said. “The need is so imperative. About 80% (of foster care high school students) want to go to college. Only 20% enroll, and only about 3% graduate. We know education is access, and can change their lives. Access without support is not opportunity.”
The major component of the Fostering Success program is having their office, where students can meet with each other and with advisors, building a support network, Ruppe said.
“We meet with them as often as they need,” she said. “Some come in several times a week as freshmen.”
Many students become leaders in the program over their college career, she added.
For the past four or five years, Fostering Success also has established a summer overnight program for high school students, to bring foster care students to campus. Roughly 15 to 20 students statewide have attended the overnight program each year.
“We talk with them about post-secondary options,” Ruppe said. “They get to sleep in the dorms, eat in the dining halls, and see what college life is all about.”
Ruppe said that summer overnight program has led to several of those students opting to attend UW-Stout.