Acting, music, writing, digital art and animation: if it involves creativity, Star is all-in! It started back in Grade 3 when she picked up a pen, wanting to be a novelist. “I’ve always been a big creative,” says the 26-year-old Burnaby resident. Currently, she is working on her reel, a video resume of her skills to get a job in one of the fastest growing job sectors in the world – digital animation.
Thanks to support from the Youth Futures Education Fund (YFEF), which provides support for basic living expenses like rent, food and technology, Star can do just that. As a former youth in care aging into community, Star was in the BC Government’s Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) Program while pursuing her diploma at the 3D Animation for Game, Film & Visual Effects Program at Langara College in Vancouver. While she could cover some of her most basic expenses, she could not afford some of the necessary tools to pursue her diploma.
“I had no idea how to digitally draw and I needed a tool for that,” Star says. “I bought an iPad which is very well loved now because I use it every day. I never would have been able to afford it.”
Going to school is expensive. On top of tuition, it costs almost $26,500 a year for necessities like rent, internet, transit, and food. Over 80% of BC families with kids ages 19-28 support them financially, but this support is often not available to former youth in care like Star.
To help ensure equal access to education, YFEF partners with 26 academic institutions across British Columbia to provide low-barrier financial support to youth formerly in government care who are pursuing post-secondary education.
Top uses of the fund are for wrap-around supports, like groceries, technology, books, utilities, transportation, and rent. In 2020/21, over $550,000 was invested to help 519 students across British Columbia like Star.
“The funds are allocated on a needs basis and in 2020/21 amounts allocated ranged from as large as $5,800 to as small as $34. With this important support, over 90% of students accessing the fund are continuing or have completed their education – a testament to the vital role YFEF is playing in their academic success,” says Maureen Young, Vice-President, Social Purpose at Coast Capital and Chair of the Youth Futures Education Fund.
YFEF will disburse over half a million dollars to former youth in care across British Columbia this year so they can access funds to help them make their educational dreams possible. Thanks to the support of partners like the Province of British Columbia, which invests $250,000 annually, the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth, Coast Capital, the Vancouver Foundation and United Way British Columbia – Working with communities in BC’s Interior, Lower Mainland and Central & Northern Vancouver Island (United Way BC) and its donors, which will this year invest $325,000, more former youth in care are pursuing vocations and careers that matter to them.
“Over 2,000 students have received a total of almost $3 million in YFEF funding thanks to the generosity of our donors and partners,” says Jasica Grewal, Director, Community Impact and Investment at United Way BC. “Each of those students has a story of resiliency and determination. United Way British Columbia is proud to be part of a partnership that supports youth to success.”
“It was relieving because each semester I could look forward to knowing that there was something there to help stabilize me when I felt when I felt myself getting rocky financially,” Star says.
Why it matters
In 2021, 5,259 children and youth were in care in BC. Sixty-seven (67) percent of these children and youth were Indigenous, with these youth being 17 times more likely to be in government care in BC than non-Indigenous youth. Every year, around 850 young people transition out of government care or a youth agreement in BC. They can find themselves mentally, financially, and emotionally struggling due to lack of family and other support. In fact, about 40% of BC’s homeless population were in government care at some point in their lives.
Many people like Star are placed in care as young children, which can have lifelong impacts. “It’s quite sad to see that people who have gone through such hard things continue to go through hard things,” Star says.
“YFEF supports former youth in care during a critical time,” says Jasica. “These young people don’t often have the same family supports available to them as their peers. Young people who have had to face adversity head on should not have to put their dreams on hold due to affordability and access. This fund supports former youth in care reach their post-secondary goals which provides a strong start for their future.”
Star is working hard pursuing her dreams of an animation career and is optimistic, thanks to support from YFEF. Receiving funding helps build confidence and self-belief empowering youth to fulfill their aspirations.
“I have YFEF to thank for being able to learn a marketable skill that has been fantastic for building my future. I’ve gotten a lot of jobs and a lot of commissions because I was able to take this program, and I would not have been able to do that without YFEF’s support,” Star says.
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The Youth Futures Education Fund was collaboratively established by: Coast Capital, 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 British Columbia – working with communities in BC’s Interior, Lower Mainland and Central & Northern Vancouver Island.