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(Brooklyn, NY)— HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services is sending a record fifty young people in foster care to college this Fall through its American Dream Program (ADP). The agency aims to send 100 scholars to college by 2020.
ADP is a wrap-around educational, emotional support and career advancement program that empowers older youth to overcome their personal challenges and excel as adults. Since its inception in 1997, the privately funded program has changed the lives of over 100 young men and women, who have graduated from prestigious schools with degrees in law, medicine and finance.
Youth age out of foster care at age 21, which means the government ceases all financial and other support during this critical transition to adulthood. “Many of us are fortunate enough to be born into a family that supports us for our entire lives. Kids in foster care don’t have that,” said HSVS Executive Director Dawn Saffayeh. “Older youth face higher rates of homelessness, unemployment and criminal charges than their peers, while less than two percent earn a college degree by age 25,” she explained.
The family-like atmosphere that the HSVS staff offers to the scholars keeps them motivated and focused. Mamadou, a former HSVS scholar and group home resident, graduated from NYU Tandon School of Engineering this year and now works as an Associate Engineer at Turner Construction. “I didn’t have to worry about rent, cooking or any other distractions from studying. HSVS was like my family and because of them, I was able to succeed,” shared Mamadou.
For its current cohort, HSVS hosted a Youth Development Week this month, which included college-prep workshops and motivational panel speakers. At a celebratory dinner, each scholar was highlighted, as well as presented with a three-piece luggage set containing a journal, snacks, a blanket, a cookbook, a portable phone charger and more.
“We’re here to give our students the tools they need to become successful adults. We offer guidance and let them do the rest for themselves,” said Lauren Pettiette, HSVS Director of Education. Pettiette oversees the ADP program, which means she serves as a counselor and mentor to help each scholar stay on track academically.
HSVS has a suite of youth development programs that support after-care youth, including ADP. For more information on how to invest in an American Dream scholar, please call 718-422-2339 or visit www.hsvsnyc.org.