Sometimes, All a Student Needs is to Hear a "Yes." Rebekka Behr is a Florida State University Student and Unconquered Scholars Program Participant. The Unconquered Scholars Program provides an array of support services promoting overall success to youth who experienced foster care, homelessness, relative care, or ward of the State status. Services include one-on-one advising, college life coaching, academic advising, academic tutoring, workshops and other services to ensure students stay on course toward graduation. Her story is below.
“No”. “No” is the single word that I heard most often during my time in foster care. “No, you can’t go home to your family.” “No, you can’t speak in court.” “No, you won’t make it into the college of your dreams.” “No, you will never graduate from college.” “No” is a simple word that can tear down even the strongest of people. Hearing this so often, I wasn’t even thinking about applying for college when, in 2015, I met several members of the Unconquered Scholars Program in Tallahassee. The Scholars told their stories of coming into Florida State University and being Unconquered. The Unconquered Scholars Program consists of students that have experienced foster care, homelessness, relative care, or ward of the state status before they were 18. The program provides a home and family for these students. Fewer than 3% of foster youth graduate with a 4-year college degree in the United States. Yet, meeting some of these students who have been through the system and were about to graduate from college gave my life a new perspective. I chose Florida State over my dream school because of the Unconquered Scholars as I had never heard of a program like it before.
One of the first people that I met when walking onto Florida State’s campus was Ms. Lisa Jackson, the Assistant Director for Unconquered Scholars. Since that meeting, my life has entirely changed. No longer was I hearing “no” - instead I was hearing “yes” and “how can we help you?” My freshman year I became a part of the Unconquered Scholars Advisory Board and have remained on it my entire four years of college. During my time on the Board I have seen the amazing growth of the program, from just being a group of scholars to having our own space with a clothing closet, food pantry, and refrigerator.
Before FSU, I didn’t have the stability and resources that have been provided to me with Unconquered. I am keenly aware that not every foster youth gets the opportunity to succeed the way that I have been able to. Not everyone has a faculty member who truly cares about their wellbeing or a safe space. While other colleges have similar programs, none can compare to the quality and dedication of the Unconquered Scholars. Being a part of Florida State’s campus for four years has been amazing- giving tours of campus, being a part of CARE, finding my sisterhood in Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc, and finding my family in Unconquered. My roommate, best friends, and those who I hang out with, travel with, and build plans with are all Unconquered. They are making the best of their experiences on campus and doing bigger things than anyone – including themselves - thought possible. Unconquered Scholars are traveling around the world. We are building our own businesses. We are working on Capitol Hill. We are making strides everywhere. But the most important part of these Scholars is that we are Unconquered. I am Unconquered.