Global Pandemic Exacerbates Student Need

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Supporting Former Foster Youth During a Time of Crisis 

Former foster youth face a myriad of challenges in completing a college degree.  While we might assume financial issues are the most significant challenge students face, a majority of students we spoke to cited workforce preparation, social and emotional skills, and networking skills as critical in order to ensure degree completion.  Too often a lack of intangible supports such as mentorship and one-to-one encouragement supersede finances and derail attainment. This paper provides insight into how Educate Tomorrow and its partners support vulnerable students and families, especially during this time of worldwide crisis, as they pursue educational goals.   

Educate Tomorrow and Helios Education Foundation, co-authors of this paper, share the Foundation’s primary goal of creating opportunities for success in postsecondary education. Educate Tomorrow and Helios both create and support programs that strengthen communities and promote access, equity, and success across the full education continuum, from early learning to postsecondary education.

Since it was founded in 2003, Educate Tomorrow has developed and honed its program approaches, built strategic partnerships, and even provided direct and passthrough funding to organizations with whom it has collaborated.  In this paper we examine Educate Tomorrow’s client-centered philosophy, strategic investments, and strong and collaborative partnerships.  In doing so we show how this design has enabled the organization to be in a strong position to continue to serve its clients, remotely instead of in person, by quickly modifying its operations and expanding its reach.  Second, we discuss Educate Tomorrow’s partnerships and how alliances with them have dramatically increased the persistence, retention, and graduation rates among students from foster care.  Finally, we describe Educate Tomorrow’s connection with the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and how DCF’s innovative program, Positive Pathways, administered by Educate Tomorrow, has served as a major convener and disseminator of information and technical assistance to programs that serve students from foster care pursuing postsecondary credentials.  

The global pandemic has shut down educational organizations, from early learning centers to K-12 schools to colleges and universities, throughout Florida. Therefore, the need to understand how nonprofit organizations can and must work together to meet ongoing and crisis-related needs of vulnerable populations is more urgent than ever.