$600,000 is now available to 811 former youth in care, all eligible for support this school year from the Youth Futures Education Fund. The fund helps youth formerly in care pay for living expenses like rent, utilities, transportation and books.
Students are eligible if they use the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program while studying at any one of the 25 public post-secondary institutions in B.C., in a union or apprenticeship training program, or at the Native Education College; or, if they access a tuition waiver provided by their public post-secondary institution.
Challenging childhood, strong student
Opaskwayak Cree by heritage, Jodi grew up in B.C. After moving quite a bit, she eventually transitioned into the foster care system.
“Back then I went through more than a child should have to go through,” says Jodi. “I knew about what my mom was going through as she went through it. I knew when we had no food, I knew when rent was late, and in the back of my head I knew I wouldn’t be able to go to college like 11-year-old me wanted.”
Despite the incredible adversity she faced, Jodi was resilient, and sought solace at school.
“When I was little, school was an outlet. I used it to escape my situation and create a safe place for myself,” she says. “When I went into foster care, school was the only stable piece of my life.”
It is perhaps no surprise then, that Jodi remained determined to graduate – and more.
School as a stepping-stone to success
“I wanted to be a vision of success for my family. I always knew my mom would be happy to see me graduate [high school], but I didn’t stop there.”
Jodi went on to take general studies at Douglas College, and will be moving into its Aboriginal Stream next semester.
While Jodi uses a government waiver to cover her tuition and school fees, this are by no means the only costs for students.
Mitigating costs, removing barriers
In fact, living expenses for students in B.C. are about $19,700, on average. Ninety-two per cent of B.C. parents with children under 30 support them financially – supports often not available to former youth in care.
For that reason, it doesn’t take long for former youth in care to struggle to make ends meet.
Some students work multiple jobs while at school. Others hit pause on their education, withdrawing for a semester to work and save money, then returning when they can afford it.
The result? Many students take far longer to graduate. Or worse: some students burn out and withdraw altogether.
But the Youth Futures Education Fund helps mitigate these costs, levelling the playing field so former youth in care get a fair shot to succeed alongside their peers.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the Youth Futures Education Fund,” says Jodi.
“I don’t have to worry about my next meal, about being evicted, or student loans. Thanks to this fund my inner child is beaming with happiness.”
This academic year, 811 students are eligible for support from the Youth Futures Education Fund. That figure is almost double the 449 students supported in the 2018-19 academic year. In total, the $600,00 available represents the largest amount since the fund’s founding in 2015.
“We are thankful to the champions of the Youth Futures Education Fund, from across the province. Because of you, we are able to disburse $600,000 this year to assist over 800 B.C. students with wrap-around supports,” says Maureen Young, Chair Youth Futures Education Fund and Director of Community Leadership at Coast Capital Savings.
“The Youth Futures Education Fund does so much more than help students pay bills,” says Kim Winchell, Director of Social Impact, United Way of the Lower Mainland. “This money helps former youth in care sets goals and believe in themselves. It helps promising young people pursue their dreams, knowing their communities are behind them. And eventually, these students give back to the very communities that have supported them.”
“United Way is proud to have invested an additional $150,000 in this program this year, so even more youth can reach their full potential.”
The Youth Futures Education Fund was collaboratively established by Coast Capital Savings, The Province of British Columbia, and the Office of the Representative of Children and Youth. The Fund is guided by an Advisory Committee, held at the Vancouver Foundation and is administered by United Way of the Lower Mainland.