Bridging Success provides robust safety net at every phase of students' college journey
ASU junior Nikki Burgess entered Arizona’s foster-care system when she was 15. Determined to better her situation by earning a university education, Burgess graduated from high school in three years at age 17 — only to find that her aspirations were discouraged.
“My case manager wasn’t receptive of my going to a university. He wanted me to go to community college and stay with my foster parents, but I was not about to go down without a fight,” said Burgess emphatically, the fortitude that it took to follow her dream still evident in her voice.
She secured admission to ASU, got a judge’s approval to move from a foster home to campus, and is thriving.
“In two and a half years, my life has completely changed for the better,” said the justice studies major, who is already making plans to attend graduate school.
She also works to inspire other foster alumni to achieve their goals at ASU, as a peer mentor in the university’s Bridging Success program.
Bridging Success at ASU, a partnership between ASU’s University College and the College of Public Service and Community Solutions, has programs and people in place to support foster youth in every phase of their college journey — and has rallied champions in key units across ASU who are also committed to help foster youth enroll in, transition to and successfully graduate from ASU.
Getting the word out to the foster-care community that this robust safety net is in place was the aim of a daylong forum at ASU earlier this month.
More than 70 service providers who work with foster youth attended the Feb. 11 event “Conquering Barriers and Bridging Success for ASU Foster Care Alumni.”
“These professionals all have a passion for helping youth and are in a unique position to help make the dream of a college education a reality,” said Jeanne Hanrahan, director of community outreach for University College and College of Letters and Sciences.
“We organized the conference to share insights about what life is like for ASU students who have experienced care and to connect foster care-givers to some of the resources and people who can support them and the youth they work with as they make plans to attend college,” Hanrahan said.
An opening panel featured Burgess and three other current ASU students participating in Bridging Success, who spoke movingly about their paths and transitions to the university. They reiterated the importance of encouragement — someone to be there to say “hey, you can do this” and to help with the practical stuff. They stressed the need for more people to spread the word that there are resources out there to support their college journey.
Breakout sessions focused on nuts and bolts related to admission, transfer pathways, scholarships and financial aid, housing, major and career exploration — and all that the Bridging Success program has to offer, including a one-stop, resource-rich web portal. There was time to make personal connections and check out information tables during lunch.
For practitioners Chelsy Smith and Faith Brewster, who attended the conference as representatives from A Blessed Nest, the day was their first opportunity to learn about all the resources and support available at ASU for foster alumni and their advocates.
“We didn’t know all these resources were available at ASU,” said Smith, who is house manager for a licensed group home caring and advocating for 10 children, ages 10 to 17. “The conference was a great experience and really opened our eyes to the unlimited resources available to our kids.”
Brewster, who serves as educational liaison for each of the children, appreciated the session in which ASU Admissions staff laid out a timeline of key tasks to focus on between eighth grade and senior year in order to be college-ready. She also valued the chance to talk about ways ASU students might become involved, as part of service-learning and internship opportunities.