What is the Seita Scholarship?
- The Seita Scholarship is a scholarship that supports Western Michigan University students who have lived some or all of their teenage years in foster care. This WMU scholarship is named to honor Dr. John Seita, who is a three-time alumnus of WMU. The Seita Scholarship is only offered to fall semester admits to WMU.
- The Seita Scholarship is designed to support students who have experienced foster care. To qualify, students must meet all eligibility criteria of the scholarship.
- The Seita Scholarship is renewable each semester up to completion of the undergraduate degree, as long as the student files a Free Application for Federal Student Aid by March 1 every year, continues to live on campus, and maintains satisfactory academic progress. Students who are eligible for more than one scholarship for first-time students at WMU will be awarded the one with the highest value.
- Recipients of the Seita Scholarship must abide by the scholarship agreement, which includes the following benefits and conditions:
- Reside on campus.
- Maintain full-time student status.
- Take a seminar course for Seita Scholars.
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress.
- Participate in academic monitoring.
- Abide by University codes for campus living.
- Attend all classes.
- Attend scheduled program events.
- Pay bills on time.
- Meet regularly with a program advisor.
- Refrain from working off campus.
- Campus coaches to help navigate campus life.
- Recipients of the Seita Scholarship are enrolled in the Seita Scholars Program.
Growing up in foster care typically brings many additional challenges to Seita Scholars that are not often shared with the general student population. In addition to Seita Scholars Program staff, Seita Scholars also have support of many others on campus and in the community including:
- Seita Scholars First-Year Seminar instructors and student leaders.
- Seita Scholars peer leaders.
- AFSCME Local 1668 and other volunteers.
- Career mentors.
- Amazing staff members in other WMU departments and programs.
The Seita Scholars program staff and Seita Scholars peer leaders work to level the playing field in seven life domains. Some examples of challenges faced by college students from foster care are:
- Academics: Foster youth change high schools twice as often as non-foster youth, and as a result are more likely to be behind in English, math and science; trauma from childhood can compromise memory and ability to pay attention, thus interfering with learning.
- Finances: Foster youth are at a higher risk for identity theft; they are less likely to name someone that can lend them $50 to cover a money crisis; they also have difficulty identifying supports who are willing to co-sign loans.
- Housing: Foster youth often have no home to return to during semester breaks when the residence halls close.
- Physical and mental health: Foster youth are more likely to have ongoing health issues stemming from conditions of childhood and the foster-care experience; they have often missed out on the important information about nutrition, exercise and rest to support good health.
- Social relationships and community connections: For most foster youth, growing up in foster care is an isolating experience; when leaving foster care many foster youth reconnect with biological families in an effort to make sense of their growing-up experience. However, some are never able to reestablish biological family ties.
- Personal and cultural identity: Young people who have grown up in foster care will tell you there is a culture to foster care that is not understood by other people in society. While most Seita Scholars entered foster care through Child Protective Services, about one in five Seita Scholars entered foster care as unaccompanied minors from third world countries (refugees).
- Life skills: Foster youth must master complex life skills at very young ages in order to manage their lives as young adults; foster youth manage relationships with foster parents, attorneys and caseworkers; their budgeting skills must include understanding of fiscal years for financial aid and the Department of Human Services; they are individually responsible for filing tax returns; they must also navigate Medicaid to get basic health care needs met.