Monday, December 8, 2014

Germanna has Great Expectations for foster care youth

Simply keeping a roof over their heads is an accomplishment for teens aging out of the foster care system.

“A lot of our foster youth here in Virginia have become homeless,” said Jennifer Lawrence, a Student Success Coach at Germanna Community College who heads up the Great Expectations program at GCC.

Jennifer Lawrence talks with Great Expectations students at holiday event.

Great Expectations is a statewide program that helps foster care youth who are aging out of the system make the transition to college and employment.

According to the Virginia Community College System, Virginia has the highest percentage of teens aging out of the system without a permanent home:  
  •   As of Jan. 2010, Virginia had approximately 6,000 children in foster care. Of these, 53% are teenagers.
  •    Nationally, of those who have recently aged out of the system, over 25% will be incarcerated in the first 2 years after leaving the system.
  •    Over 54 percent will be homeless or unstably housed.
  •    Only 20 percent of those 19 or older will take advantage of the educational programs available to them.
  •    Only 58 percent will earn a high school degree by age 19, compared with 87 percent nationally.
  •    Less than 2 percent will earn a college degree, compared with 28 percent of the general population. 

More information is available at

 During a recent holiday party and celebration of Great Expectation students’ achievements, Lawrence had the students stand up and talk about what they’ve accomplished.

  • ·     A number had maintained grade point averages approaching 4.0.
  • ·     One did so while learning to manage a chronic illness while continuing in school and working.
  • ·     One had become an officer in the community college honorary society Phi Theta Kappa.
  • ·     One had begun a home health care job.
  • ·     One had been certified as an emergency medical technician and firefighter.
  • ·     One is doing volunteer work at his church.
  • ·     One had earned her cosmetology license worked at two jobs while going to school, saved her money and bought a used car.

 The latter encouraged other students to: “Go for it. Work hard. Don’t stop.”

 According to the Great Expectations helps Virginia’s foster youth complete high school, gain access to a community college education and transition successfully from the foster care system to living independently. Key components include:
  • Individualized tutoring
  • Help applying for college admission and financial aid
  • Career exploration and coaching
  • Help applying for and keeping a job
  • Life skills training, including managing finances

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