MSFAA has a tradition at our winter conference. Each year we hold a silent auction benefiting a charity in the state. This year, the charity selected was Fostering Futures. The Fostering Futures program is administered through the State of Michigan’s Student Scholarships and Grants office and provides scholarships to young adults who have experienced foster care, who enroll at Michigan degree granting colleges and universities and who meet academic and need-based criteria.
At any given time, it is estimated that Michigan has approximately 13,000 children in the foster care system. The program reports: “A growing number of Michigan youth reach adult age while in foster care, and in addition to their lack of stable family structure and their impending housing needs, they have no financial resources available to attend college.” Seventy percent of teens who emancipate from foster care report a desire to attend college, but fewer than ten percent of those graduating from high school actually enroll and less than one percent persists to graduation.
With the belief that heartstrings are connected to purse strings, MSFAA invited Robin Lott, Director of Michigan Education Trust, and Dr. Lisa Feinics, Life Skills Coach in the Mpowering My Success program at the University of Michigan - Flint to speak at the conference. Director Lott provided an update of the scholarship program and efforts to raise money to assist our foster youth before Dr. Feinics shared her compelling story. Dr. Feinics was placed in foster care at age 8 and had numerous placements over the next 8 years before she ran away to the streets. But that was not where her story ended. Despite the hardships and challenges that faced her, and maybe because of those experiences and for her daughter, Lisa changed her life's path and went on to earn a PhD in Neurobiology and Behavior from the University of Washington in Seattle. Dr. Feinics worked as a scientist and an educator in the US and abroad before her passion brought her into her current position, where she supports current and former foster youth attending college. Her emotional and inspiring story had many of us in tears. Her message: With help, our youth who have experienced foster care can do great things. The Michigan aid community helped!