A special Thanksgiving care package event is happening Nov. 19.
By Rocky Garza
The leader of the Bexar County Fostering Educational Success pilot program at this college is especially suited for this role.
Student care advocate Krizia Franklin was in the state foster care system from age 2-18.
She was a key advocate in the establishment of the program.
The mission of the pilot program is to improve college enrollment, retention and graduation rates for students exiting foster care.
The program also is intended to expand students’ emotional, social and professional networks, instilling the idea among foster children that attending college is achievable and expected.
In 2019, Texas legislators approved $3.5 million for a partnership of Alamo Colleges, University of Texas at San Antonio and Texas A&M-San Antonio to offer the program to their students.
Franklin testified during the legislative process, stressing the importance of obtaining a college degree for foster care youth.
According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, there are about 35,000 children in the Texas foster system, and 1,200 age out of the system each year. The research also shows 33% of foster alumni enroll in college, but just 1.3% graduate with a bachelor’s degree by the age of 24.
The Bexar County Fostering Educational Success pilot program is an evidence-based and trauma-informed strategic framework tailored to meet the educational and external needs of youth with foster care history. The program was officially launched Sept. 23, 2019.
The program is only offered to former foster care participants. Students who use the tuition and fee waiver are eligible for benefits, such as case management, emergency funding, care packages and gift card incentives, Franklin said.
There are more than 120 foster care students at the college and 123 active students in the program.
Franklin said if students are unsure if they are eligible, she could help anyone find out if they meet the criteria.
Franklin said the district sends her a list of students using the tuition and fee waiver, which exempts current and former foster youth from paying tuition and fees at their universities or colleges.
The waiver is one way for Franklin to see the eligibility of students, but other ways students can reach her is by using the student helpline, visiting the welcome center or asking an adviser.
These resources will send a referral of the students’ information to Franklin. She can then determine if they are eligible.
Once a student is determined eligible, the process to receive the benefits involves a trip to the college, where they will be health-screened for approval from administrators to be on campus.
Next is a sit-down session with Franklin that involves completing an initial intake of information, as well as a strengths and needs assessment.
She said if the student discloses to her they are having housing insecurities or need rent assistance, she will help them fill out an emergency funding request form.
Franklin also said students 18-24 years old could tap into the City of San Antonio funding offered at the college. The funding can be used for medical expenses, transportation expenses and food.
Franklin said one of the benefits of the program is the care package. The goal is to give one to every eligible student.
The care package program gives individuals household items, toiletries and hygiene products. Students can get a care package once a month, but in an emergency, they can email Franklin to obtain another one.
Without an initial intake session with Franklin, students will not be eligible to receive a care package.
Franklin uses the assessment for each student to figure out what items benefit the students, and said students are encouraged to come during food bank drive-throughs to get an all-in-one care package.
The distribution of care packages is from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. every Thursday in the student advocacy center. Franklin said the center has distributed 30 care packages to students in the pilot program, and their goal is to keep increasing the number.
The program is hosting a special Thanksgiving care package event 2-4 p.m. in parking Lot 19 Nov. 19. To participate in this event and receive a care package, Franklin said to email her at email@example.com or call 210-486-1111.
Nursing sophomore Guicelda De La Cruz said, “My life would be harder for sure without the program. The program has given me a lot of resources, and I have been able to be successful without stressing about how I was going to make it until my next paycheck.”
De La Cruz said it changed her life because she no longer had the burden of living paycheck to paycheck.
The resources De La Cruz took advantage of included the care package, financial assistance and the gift card incentive, a $25 H-E-B gift card.
De La Cruz also said the program assisted her in creating a map to plan her future.
“I have been able to catch up on things, and the program helped me figure things out, and they have been so understanding and helped me get what I need to succeed,” she said.
For more information on college services for former foster care students, visit: www.alamo.edu/sac/about-sac/college-offices/student-advocacy-center/foster-youth/.
For more information on the program, visit: www.bcfes.org/.