Nat has a passion for health and fitness, weightlifting in particular. He can deadlift over 400 pounds! “It’s just another way for me to test my strength and my limits,” Nat says. Much of Nat’s life has been about strength and perseverance. Several years ago, Nat faced his mother’s abrupt hospitalization, an event leading him to be placed in a youth agreement, which helps BC youth in need of assistance.
“There were very difficult times in my adolescence and teenage years,” Nat says.
Annually almost 6,700 children are under government care in BC. Once they reach 19 and age out of care, they lose support from their foster parents, social workers, government programs, along with any financial assistance. Unstable upbringings and the constant strain of financial struggle can leave youth like Nat unsure about their future.
This burden means few consider the path to higher education. In fact, 50% less youth aging out of care continue on to post-secondary studies compared to the general population.
“I didn’t want to take out student loans or have student debt,” Nat says.
Equal opportunity for former youth in care
Thanks to a tuition waiver program, which covers school fees and the Youth Futures Education Fund, which helps students, who are former youth in care with basic living expenses like rent, books, internet and food, Nat is getting access to the same education as his peers.
This Fall, Nat’s participating in the University of British Columbia’s History Honors program. It’s his third year at the school and he couldn’t be more pleased.
“Getting accepted into the History Honours program is immensely valuable to me. It’s something I find passion in…Without the funding, I probably would not have gone to university,” Nat says. “It’s allowing me to explore my post-secondary aspirations and to develop into an adult.”
Possible careers paths include becoming a lawyer, a teacher and running his own business.
“All youth should have the same opportunities to pursue a higher education,” says Kim Winchell, Senior Director, Strategy & Operations at United Way of the Lower Mainland and Youth Futures Advisory Committee member. “The Youth Futures Education Fund, United Way and our donors support youth aging out of care so they can fulfill their potential. It’s a message of hope for our collective future.”
Unprecedented investment in youth
In 2018/19, more than 460 former youth in care received over $430,000 in support from the Youth Futures Education Fund, up 24% from the previous year. In 2020, more than 800 former youth from care are attending school on a tuition waiver and hoping for support from fund.
Thanks to supporters like United Way of the Lower Mainland and its donors, more of these youth are getting a fair shot at success alongside their peers. In September, United Way announced an unprecedented investment of $350,000 into the Youth Futures Education Fund.
“United Way of the Lower Mainland wholeheartedly supports former youth in care as they pursue their educational dreams,” says Kim. “Increasing our investment means more as these amazing young people will have the opportunity to succeed in school and in life.”
“I have the utmost faith in myself that I will provide not only a brighter future for myself but for my mother too,” Nat says. “The help I have received from the Youth Futures Education Fund has been vital to my success and I am forever grateful.”
The Youth Futures Education Fund was collaboratively established by: Coast Capital Savings, The Province of British Columbia, and the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth. The Youth Futures Education Fund is guided by an Advisory Committee, held at the Vancouver Foundation and is administered by United Way of the Lower Mainland.
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