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Written by Allison Nitch
May 8, 2020
The Fostering Scholars program (FSP) at Seattle University comprehensively supports and promotes the success of current and former foster youth in pursuing a college education. Since 2006, it’s one of the only programs of its kind operating within a private, independent university. Despite the multitude of changes brought on by COVID-19, ongoing support and guidance for these exceptional students has not wavered.
“During this unprecedented period, I have been both concerned for and inspired by our scholars,” says Colleen Montoya Barbano, director of the Fostering Scholars program. “Like everyone, they are adapting to the unique challenges presented by remote instruction and social distancing. However, they are a remarkably resilient group of students. Our ability to pivot successfully as a program is in large part due to the strong relationships and trust that we have built between students and staff over time.”
Checking in with each of the 20 scholars on an individual basis and scheduling weekly group social gatherings over Zoom help nurture connections among the program’s community. “We’ve had a couple of Zoom birthday celebrations and we are even holding our first-ever Fostering Scholars Talent Show this month,” says Montoya Barbano. “The campus community has always been, and continues to be, a great source of support, as partners, donors and mentors to students.”
The students’ essential needs such as meal plans, grocery stipends and on-campus housing are provided through the help of university and philanthropic partners. When Seattle U announced the move to remote learning in March, long-time partners from the nonprofit organization Ticket to Dream Foundation®, which specializes in providing critical resources to foster youth nationwide, immediately reached out with a donation of Chromebooks to ensure any scholars without a laptop have the technology they need to be successful.
“With this program we have a safe space and a sense of family and…FSP continuously offers help,” says Rebecca Pirruccio, ’21, a scholar majoring in interdisciplinary liberal studies. “The program created care packages for each student living on- and off-campus and has weekly virtual activities such as celebrating birthdays or even just to have lunch together.”
This year, nine students are preparing to graduate, which is the program’s largest graduating class of scholars. Of the group, four will be moving on to graduate schools: one PhD, two master’s in social work and one returning to Albers School of Business and Economics for a master’s in accounting.
“This is a particularly challenging time for those graduating,” says Montoya Barbano. “Not only is there the disappointment around missing those important traditions and celebrations, but they are also under enormous added pressure to find employment, housing, etc.”
She notes that the Fostering Scholars program is, “working with them to provide support as best as we can. Of course, we will also be finding ways to celebrate and recognize our graduates’ accomplishments.”
To learn more about the Fostering Scholars program, visit https://www.seattleu.edu/fosteringscholars/. To donate to the program, visit https://www.seattleu.edu/fosteringscholars/with-your-support/.
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