Every young person deserves a chance to succeed – and access to education helps level the playing field. But, for some, that’s a lot harder to even hope for. We’ve heard too many stories of foster children “aging out” of care and falling through the cracks.
The numbers are harsh: in BC there are approximately 7,200 children under government care. On their birthday, each year about 700 of them will age out of care. And within six months, almost half of them will be on welfare. With no resources and no family for support, even the act of making a choice try for a post-secondary education is a big deal.
Given the recent expansion of the government-supported tuition waiver program, it’s just a little bit easier. But former youth in care struggle to scrape by… sometimes forced to wait in food bank lines when they should be studying for midterms.
Ashley knows how tough it can be. Working multiple minimum wage jobs – and volunteering once a week to help her get into a better school – was proving too much. She had no time to spare for studying and was still struggling to stay out of poverty after covering her basic needs off. The tuition waiver program helped, but not enough.
That’s where a new United Way of the Lower Mainland collaboration – the Youth Futures Education Fund – helps. A partnership between United Way, Coast Capital Savings, the Vancouver Foundation, the Province of British Columbia and individual donors, the fund is filling a vital need by covering basic living expenses – including food, rent and the internet access students need for school. Thanks to the fund, Ashley is focused on getting her Bachelor of Science and pursuing a career in nursing.
“I see myself in five years working as a community health nurse working with kids, young adults and youth,” Ashley reflects. And it’s a pretty beautiful reflection: she’s going to pay her local love forward and spend her career helping look after others in need.
At United Way we’re working across the community to address the #unignorable issue of education inequality.
Unleash your local love.