INITIATIVE UPDATE: Great Expectations Program Exceeds Them
An initiative of Virginia’s Community Colleges, Great Expectations (GE) is a nationally recognized program that helps Virginia’s foster youth earn the postsecondary credentials they need to achieve an independent and successful life.
Created in 2008 as a partnership between Virginia’s Community Colleges and philanthropists supporting the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education (VFCCE), GE originally launched at five Virginia Community Colleges, each of which received a grant to pilot components of the program. Since then, the program has expanded to 20 of Virginia’s Community Colleges, and is funded by the VFCCE, the Commonwealth of Virginia and notable partners such as the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation.
Its core mission is to help Virginia’s foster youth complete high school, gain access to a community college education, and transition successfully from the foster care system to living independently. Key components include:
- Individualized tutoring
- Help applying for college admission and financial aid
- Career exploration and coaching
- Help applying for and keeping a job
- Life skills training, including managing finances
- Personalized counseling
- Student mentors
- The group enjoyed hiking; touring the Natural Bridge and caverns; sessions about financial resources and the foster youth experience; and a celebratory luncheon that included remarks by Silvia Garcia-Murcia, a former John Tyler Community College GE student who is about to enter her master’s program at Shenandoah University, and Lexie Gruber, a policy associate at the American Public Human Services Associations.
- On May 18-19, current Great Expectations students enjoyed two days of bonding, sharing, exploring and learning at the Great Expectations Graduation Celebration in Natural Bridge where students were recognized for receiving GEDs, certifications, associates and bachelor’s degrees.
- In less than 10 years, the program has served more than 3,000 current and former foster youth.
“May is National Foster Care Month so it is fitting that we celebrated our graduates last week,” said Rachel Strawn, GE program director. “It was wonderful and inspiring. Our students have overcome so much, and they are so resilient! They earned 105 credentials this year, and they are beating the statistics that say that only 3% of young people who experienced foster care will earn any type of college degree. They are future nurses, welders, social workers, machinists, and teachers. We are so proud of and happy for them!”
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