Paula Carvalho, ‘08, ‘10, Program Officer, Youth Homelessness for the Raikes Foundation, exemplifies the mission of Seattle University as she influences the policies and practices that effect the foster youth system and youth experiencing homelessness in Washington state.
Nationally, less than 50% of youth in foster care graduate from high school and only 3% of those will receive a bachelor’s degree. Originally from the island of Kaua’i, and a teenager in foster care, Carvalho chose to attend Seattle U to prove to her family and friends that she could make it on her own and that she wasn’t a statistic.
Carvalho was intentional and chose a school that met her needs, had a commitment to social justice and was able to support her both academically and socially. “I was looking for a school that I wouldn’t get lost in, that was more intimate,” commented Carvalho. She worked hard in high school and was awarded a long list of scholarships that helped her enroll and pay for schooling. In her senior year, she was awarded the Fostering Scholars scholarship that helped to meet her total cost of attendance. The scholarship paid for year-round housing and food, which as a youth aging out of care, were basic needs that she was thankful to not have to worry about. “Having the scholarship made things easier for me, so I was able to focus on completing my degree and continuing to pursue my graduate degree,” stated Carvalho. Not only did the scholarship provide financial assistance for the remainder of her time at SU, but it also provided a community of students that had similar experiences. “I found a lot of friends through the Fostering Scholars program that truly understood the fear of aging out and how to emotionally handle being on our own,” said Carvalho.
Attending Seattle U and being a part of the Fostering Scholars program gave her insight into the many ways to give back and be an active member in the community. It also shed light on Carvalho’s passion to help improve the foster youth community for people of color like herself. “I was a part of the Treehouse tutoring corps, worked for the YMCA as a case manager for the Independent Living Program and served as the director of Youth Programs at The Mockingbird Society helping youth advocate for improving the foster care and homelessness system,” said Carvalho. In her new role at the Raikes Foundation, she is excited to be working for a foundation that helps fund upstream strategies that support youth homelessness and fully centers equity and youth voice in decision making.
Learn more about Fostering Scholars, whose comprehensive program of support makes it a national model and one of the only programs of its kind at a private, independent university.