Camp helps foster care teens begin to prepare for college
August 13, 2014
Under a bright blue sky, six
young people, ages 13 to 17, and two counselors circled around a rainbow-colored
parachute lying flat on the grass on the University of Wisconsin-Stout campus.
The teenagers, in foster care or group homes, were participating
recently in the university's first Fostering Success summer overnight camp.
They spent a night in a residence hall and learned
about UW-Stout and the possibility of attending someday. Before the serious
business of learning the ins and outs of college prep, the group engaged in
some fun activities.
First, the teens were encouraged to fully commit to the
camp experience. Led by Adam Ludwig, a residence hall manager, they were asked to
engage with their heads, lead with their shoulders, jump in with their knees
and be ready to go with their toes. Ludwig then transitioned to a full-throated
sing-along of "Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes."
Most participants did not know each other, so the next
activity revealed information about them. They each had to come up with a name
to describe themselves and a body motion. Ludwig started with an upraised fist
proclaiming himself as Awesome Adam. Around the circle each student had to
repeat the names and body motions of the others and add their own until all had
learned and repeated everyone's name.
The circle included Creative Cally, Grateful Greta
(counselor), Sassy Savannah, Joyful Jenny, Willing William and Nonchalant Nate.
Matt, graduate student in clinical mental health
counseling and a resident counselor at Positive Alternatives in Menomonie, had
come with two of his teens. He laughed and enjoyed watching his kids interact
with the others.
The next 24 hours were packed with information and more
fun. The teens heard from representatives in Admissions, Financial Aid office, ASPIRE-Student
Support Services and administrators in the Fostering Success program. They also
went bowling and saw a movie.
Importance of college preparation for foster youth
Holsinger-Fuchs, director of Admissions, said it's important to inform all
young people but especially those in foster care of the opportunities
"There are great scholarships and grants for foster youth,
but if students don't learn about them in middle school and high school, they
may get discouraged, see college as unattainable and feel less motivated to
focus on academics," she said.
She hopes that coming to campus and learning about the offerings
will motivate the young people to plan so when the time comes they are
college-ready. The program also will hold day camps Oct. 11 and Oct. 28 for
middle school students in foster care.
A study by the Midwest Evaluation of the Adult
Functioning of Former Foster Youth, University of Chicago, revealed that many
foster youth approach adulthood with significant educational deficits. Only 6.3
percent of Wisconsin foster youth attended a college or university fair and 2.3
percent received SAT preparation by age 22, the study found.
Fostering Success, including the summer camp, is a step
toward leveling the playing field for Wisconsin's foster youth, said
Holsinger-Fuchs. Teens set concrete goals to make their future look brighter
than their past. "We wanted them to leave feeling empowered," Holsinger-Fuchs
On the exit survey, one of the participants stated,
"When we all got together I realized I wasn't the only one with problems and
that I need to change my attitude about my past."
In the spring the university received a grant through
the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families to fund the program. For the
fall semester the program has three freshmen and at least two upper classmen.
Greta Munns, foster care liaison
Greta Munns — Grateful Greta — is pleased the university
is extending support to foster care youth and foster care alumni.
Munns, an alumna of UW-Stout and of foster care
herself, is the part-time liaison for the program.
UW-Stout is a great school for foster care alumni
because it provides important services, such as a laptop, textbook rental and
tutoring services, Munns said.
Munns recruited the teens for the overnight camp and
has contacted local businesses for help. Aussie's Dry Clean Press &
Laundromat in Menomonie has agreed to donate free services to incoming freshmen
who are foster care alumni for one year and also has secured donations for the
program from Walmart and Kwik Trip.
She is working on a possible mentor/student matching
Becoming an advocate for foster youth
Munns became an advocate from experience, not only her
own but by interning with foster care organizations in 2009 and 2010 when she
was in college.
Also in 2009, she testified at a congressional Ways and
Means Committee hearing in Washington D.C., concerning the impact of the
Fostering Connections Act of 2008 on low-income, transitioning college
Munns presented the keynote address at the 2014 high
school graduation party for foster care youth at the governor's mansion in
Madison. It was hosted by Gov. Scott Walker. She encouraged her audience to
look at their scars as something beautiful because they indicate survival.
"I had a lot of wounds when I entered foster care at
15. And I say wounds; not scars, because they hadn't healed yet." Suffering
from depression and self-injury, she didn't know "what to do with all the pain
from my wounds," she said in her address.
Munns received the support and care she needed, and the
wounds gradually healed. That journey is "a huge part of what makes me whole,
and I feel so fortunate," she said.
After she graduated from high school, she received a
$5,000 scholarship from the state Department of Children and Family Services
and attended UW-Stout, majoring in art education. "Art is a good way to connect
with others; it is an instant equalizer," she said.
Munns taught K-8 art for one year in Chicago at Piccolo
School of Excellence, where most students lived below the poverty level, she
said. She has since moved to Eau Claire and is happier than she thought was
possible. Six months ago she became the mother of twins, a boy and a girl.
To support Fostering Success, refer here.
For more information about the program refer to Fostering Success
or contact Cheyenne Gray, Fostering Success graduate assistant, or Greta
Munns, Fostering Success liaison.
Adam Ludwig, a residence hall manager, leads an
activity at the Fostering Success overnight camp held at UW-Stout. The
precollege camp was for teens from foster homes and group homes.
A rainbow-colored parachute is used during one of the
Fostering Success camp activities.
Greta Munns works with teens at the Fostering Success
overnight camp at UW-Stout.