CSJ receives $80,000 gift for STEPS effort

RUTLAND The College of St. Joseph received an $80,000 grant from the J. Warren and Lois McClure Foundation to assist with the launch of the colleges STEPS Program. STEPS (Students Taking an Effective Path to Success) is a unique program designed specifically to meet the needs of Vermont foster youth transitioning to college. The program not only provides for the academic needs of these students, but also provides extensive counseling services for this high-risk group, allows them to live on campus year round, and also provides extensive career counseling, internship placements and preparation to become a strong and valuable member of society. The faculty, staff and trustees at the College of St. Joseph are committed to this project on every level, said Emily Flewelling of the college. As college president Frank Miglorie developed the plans for this program, he and other administrators and faculty saw the clear connection to the colleges mission. They concluded that CSJs role in helping these young people, who otherwise would have very little hope of pursuing a college education or developing a worthwhile career path, will truly make a difference in their lives, she added. The current research on this segment of the Vermont population suggests that there are approximately 1,400 children in foster care. Of these, 57 percent experienced three or more foster care placements while in the system. Vermont rates as the sixth highest among the fifty states for the percentage of youth in foster care and actually has the highest percentage of children in foster care of any state east of the Mississippi, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation report, Kids Count, 2006. In a 2006 report by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, only about 10 percent of youth who have grown up in the foster care system enroll in some form of post-secondary education. This is largely due to not having a family or other role model with college experience, lack of individual resources, no knowledge of available resources or how to access them, and the lack of support systems to instill and nurture a belief in the possibility of college for young people who are in the foster care system. The ultimate goal of the STEPS Program is to have students transitioning out of foster care each year find a new direction with all of the necessary personal, counseling, housing and activity support that is needed to help this special group of young Vermonters succeed. CSJ President Miglorie said, One of the greatest measures of the outcomes of this new program will be the students themselves, as we see them grow and become independent and prepared for a successful place in society. Miglorie is grateful to the J. Warren and Lois McClure Foundation for recognizing the importance of the program and for the philanthropic support they have provided to help start the STEPS program this fall. The program at CSJ is the first of its kind in New England.

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