A Message from the Directors and Staff of the Center for Fostering Success and the Seita Scholars Program
The Center for Fostering Success and the Seita Scholars program unwaveringly participates in the quest for equality, social justice and well-being for all. Our mission is to improve college graduation and career achievement rates among youth and young adults aging out of the foster care system. Individuals who have experienced foster care are, first and foremost, unique and have distinct characteristics, hopes and dreams that intersect in ways that would light up like a starlit sky. As a group, college students from foster care are beautifully diverse. Thus, the growing tensions across the United States and reaching our city and campus community—fueled by violence, systemic racism, economic instability, homelessness and the continuing pandemic—have increased the risk that most young people from foster care already live with.
Communities of color are disproportionately affected by Covid-19, unemployment and the well-documented discrimination with law enforcement. In these times, it is evident that no group of people has been burdened as heavily as the Black community. The court ruling on the killing of Breonna Taylor was a shock reverberating through hearts and minds of many people all over the country. The decision and messaging about Breonna’s death is deeply affecting many students on our campus, and in our program. In the process of writing this statement, the murder of Jonathan Price by a police officer has happened. Meanwhile, the plight of migrant children and families at the border also continues. These injustices weigh heavy on our hearts and minds. The Center for Fostering Success and the Seita Scholars program face these difficult circumstances, and are moved to respond with right actions to better support our staff and students, as well as join other efforts on campus that are working towards equality, justice and well-being.
Black lives matter. We hear this call for unity and support efforts for equality and justice to prevail, in our world, country and community, and on our campus. In 2007, the seeds of the Seita Scholars program were planted with the idea that we would learn in “real time” how to best respond to the needs of college students who transitioned to campus from the foster care system. We began a journey that centered the lived experiences of our students. We learned, created, and built enduring student support strategies on campus that would help level the college-going playing field for those students who carried the burdens associated with the foster care experience. Although many of our ideas have been adopted by other universities and colleges, we are very clear in our understanding that we are continually learning to better understand, connect, support and build healing spaces and strategies. We accept that we do not always get “it” right and endeavor to learn from our mistakes. We remain committed to learning and sharing our lessons learned.
In these times, we are also being called to bring extra care and focus to the experiences of our staff and students of color. This extra care and focus will help us to better understand, learn, respond and advocate for justice and equality for all students making the transition from foster care to college, and from college to career. Our extra care and focus on Black lives in no way excludes other groups of students; however, we acknowledge it will give shape to how we move forward. For example, we will invite more open dialog and communication with students of color about their experiences of racism and with White students about how to become allies for racial healing. By learning about and with those who are most impacted by the harsh injustices and inequalities present in society, we all stand to benefit from greater understanding, connection and compassion for one another.
To ensure that we move consciously and sensitively toward a vision of support and services that openly and freely embraces equality and social justice, staff of the Center for Fostering Success and the Seita Scholars Program are increasing efforts to educate ourselves about race relations and other forms of oppression. As we move forward, we will do so with diversity and inclusivity guiding our undertakings and influencing our program developments. We are committed to developing strategies and resources that support each of our students to find and follow their inner compass and benefit fully from their college education to enjoy a fulfilling life. As we turn toward the challenges and burdens being experienced by the Black community, we strive to be better advocates and collaborators for the well-being of the whole community of Seita Scholars. At the same, time, we expect all of our scholars who have foster care experience to benefit from the deepened learning and understanding of racism, white supremacy and other systemic injustices. Furthermore, we will integrate our learning into programming and training in an effort to better fulfill our mission.
The staff of the Center for Fostering Success and the Seita Scholars program recommits to create welcoming spaces for all our students. In addition, we double our efforts to open and expand our learning to increase an atmosphere of welcoming for our students and staff of color. We also will seek avenues be stronger allies for racial healing. As always, our primary focus is the well-being of all Seita Scholars. Any Seita Scholar grappling personally with global or local events and with the perils of racism or other forms of oppression are invited to reach out to a Campus Coach, the Program Director, or the Center Director. We recommit our pledge to learn together and advocate to both remove barriers of oppression and increase opportunities to optimally support students on the journey out of foster care, into college, and to career.
Yvonne Unrau, Ph.D., MSW, Director Center for Fostering Success
Ronicka Hamilton, M.A., L.L.P.C., A.C.C. Director, Seita Scholars Program