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Wayne State foster student services program honors first graduates, key supporters

May 1, 2014

Wayne State foster student services program honors first graduates, key supporters

The Transition to Independence Program (TIP), an initiative of Wayne State School of Social Work providing comprehensive academic and social services to students aging out of foster care, feted its first graduates and key program supporters at an April 17 “Warrior Dinner” in the Student Center Building.

Four TIP students will be receiving undergraduate degrees at the university’s May 1 Commencement. These students include Hussein Alabed, Maria Barron, Noelle Lauer and Kayla Spray.  With a mere two to five percent of the foster children who enroll in college graduate by age 25, these four degrees represent a program milestone that Director Angelique Day called “the greatest possible affirmation of our efforts.”

“Everything we do at TIP is designed to keep foster students enrolled at Wayne State and working toward a degree,” said Day, an assistant professor of social work. “Combined with the independent living skills our students gain through the program, this degree will position them for the employment opportunities, social stability and financial security that elude far too many young people leaving the child welfare system. We could not be more proud of our first graduates.”

The event, which featured comedic skits by students and a motivational talk by Reco Spencer, a foster care alumnus and case manager at Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, also recognized three “champions” of the TIP program. The honorees included Detroit-area attorney Eric Berg (J.D. ’11), for providing pro bono legal services to TIP students; Steven Press of the university’s Counseling & Psychological Services, for connecting TIP students to critical mental health and wellness supports; and Wayne State First Lady Jacqueline Wilson, for founding the HIGH (Helping Individuals Go Higher) Program to aid TIP and other Wayne State students who are homeless or dealing with other severe hardships.

The Wayne State University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (jointly affiliated with the American Federation Teachers), whose executive director is TIP Board Member Michelle Fecteau, sponsored the dinner and donated the food. Photography was donated by Detroit-area professionals Jeffrey Sauger and John F. Martin and TIP student Christian Davis.

Funded by a Michigan Department of Human Services grant, TIP partners with Detroit-area organizations to provide Wayne State students transitioning out of foster care with professional mentoring, legal representation, financial literacy, health care, and other services. The program employs a full-time life skills coach to provide program participants with additional support and appoints staff – dubbed “foster youth champions” – to serve as liaisons between WSU foster youth and key university offices, including Financial Aid; Counseling and Psychological Services; Career Services; Housing and Residential Life; and the Campus Health Center among others.

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