For Students to Climb, St. Petersburg College Invests in RISE

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The path toward postsecondary completion is rarely smooth. In fact, students face many crossroads where decisions can enhance or derail their education journey. Thus, guiding students along their individualized road to completion is critical. 

To meet the unique education needs of former foster youth, St. Petersburg College created a targeted support program called RISE, The Road to Independence, Success, and Excellence.  RISE will serve over 150 SPC students currently enrolled and benefiting from the Florida Department of Children and Families tuition exemption waiver. 

To lead the RISE program SPC selected education advocate, Dr. Althea Blake. “My goal is to increase the number of students using the DCF waiver at SPC and to empower these students to leave a legacy,” explained Dr. Blake. All students who attend SPC and utilize a DCF waiver will receive support through RISE. Those students who apply to be a “Rising Titan” will benefit from one-on-one coaching with the RISE Program Coordinator, leadership development, and professional mentorship, in addition to the traditional services offered as part of RISE. “Rising Titans” are expected to meet with the Program Coordinator monthly, attend RISE workshops, meet with their academic advisor once per semester, participate in one community service activity per semester, complete a minimum of one hour of tutoring, and maintain a GPA of 2.0 or above. 

“Too often a lack of intangible supports such as mentorship and one-to-one encouragement supersede finances and derail attainment for students who age out of the foster care system,” said Brett McNaught, President and CEO, Educate Tomorrow. Focused exclusively on the needs of former foster youth, statewide non-profit and Helios’ partner, Educate Tomorrow, built a strategic partnership with and provided direct funding to St. Petersburg College to further degree attainment among former foster youth. “While financial assistance is essential to complete a postsecondary degree, tuition is only one of the many challenges these students face. Programs such as RISE are essential to student success,” said McNaught.   RISE is the first full-time, state college program dedicated to supporting the needs of former foster youth launched in Florida in seven years.

State college models similar to RISE experiencing success with former foster youth include Educate Tomorrow at Miami Dade College and Tallahassee Community College’s Fostering Achievement Fellowship Program – each provides wrap around support services that not only address the student’s academic needs but also address needs such as housing, food insecurity, and mental health. 

“Helios believes a high-quality education should be within reach of every student. St. Petersburg College’s investment in RISE is one more step toward closing achievement gaps and ensuring all students, particularly first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students experience postsecondary success” said Paul J. Luna, President and CEO of Helios Education Foundation.