Today the Government of British Columbia announced a contribution of $250,000 in 2019-20 to the Youth Futures Education Fund.
The funding will provide students formerly in foster care with access to funding for costs beyond tuition such as buying books, groceries, paying bills and rent.
“Former youth in care pursuing their educational dreams don’t always have resources to turn to for covering expenses,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.
“Hope and optimism for the future will come from the Youth Futures Education Fund (YFEF), removing barriers for students, as they become the change makers and leaders we know they can be.”
Leveling the playing field
When most young people begin post-secondary education, family is there to lend a hand. Freshmen often get help with things like rent, groceries, and emotional support.
But it’s often a different story for former foster kids. Many young people who have been in government care can struggle to make academics their focus. Often they must work part- or full-time while in school, take semesters off, or even use food banks for groceries.
Ashley was put in foster care at 12. See how the Youth Futures Education Fund is helping her succeed in school.
In 2017, Premier John Horgan announced an expansion to the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program for former youth in care at all 25 public post-secondary institutions and the Native Education College. The program was then expanded to apprenticeship training programs
While this was a great step forward in assisting these young people to realize the dream of attending post-secondary education, tuition is only a portion of the actual cost of post-secondary education.
That’s when the Youth Futures Education Fund was established, making funds available to students for basic living expenses like food, rent, transportation or childcare.
“It offers me a lot of optimism that I do have support available,” said Ashley, participant in the fund.
Mallory Woods can relate.
“On the day I left home, I walked away with five dollars, no job, a limp plan,” says Mallory. “What I did have were pockets full of crippling social anxiety, depression, mental illness. In truth I felt no need to secure my future. I didn’t believe I would have one.”
Despite all the barriers in her way, Mallory wanted to get an education and help other youth.
“The costs of education were higher than my [tuition waiver],” says Mallory. “The fear I would be unable to commit to both university and a necessary full-time job without risking my recovery plagued me. I spent a year ruminating on what at the time seemed impossible, weighing the scales between poverty and post-secondary.”
Mallory says the Youth Futures Education Fund “put those fears to bed.” She was able to access it to cover her living costs, and get her education at Vancouver Island University. She now empowers other youth as the founder of Into the Woods coaching.
Mallory was in the room when the Government of B.C. announced its $250,000 investment.
“When you don’t have a support system to back you up it’s tough to pursue a post-secondary degree, so the additional funding is a huge help.”
Why United Way supports youth futures
Foster children often experience vulnerability and isolation from their families and communities. Yet, former youth in care can be some of our most resilient and resourceful citizens. They can do amazing things if their communities rise to support them.
This is why United Way is proud to be a part of the Youth Futures Education Fund.
“Youth that feel cared for and support by the community will start to believe in themselves again,” said Kim Winchell, Director of Social Impact at United Way of the Lower Mainland. “They start to develop a sense of self–esteem, they start to give back to their communities.”
“The Youth Futures program provides them with the support and guidance to believe in themselves, to realize they can be successful in post-secondary education, and they can reach their potential.”
Every child, youth and young adult should know their entire community as a stake in their success. The Youth Futures Education Fund has been in place since 2015 and has helped over 600 students.
And what does Mallory Woods say these 600+ students have received? In a word: stability.
“This is the promise of the Youth Future Education Fund… the necessary stability for empowered student living,” she says. “More than this, it helps individuals to turn their personal hardship into the much-needed medicine our world is asking for. Through allowing his stability on an individual level, we advocate for what the strength of resilience can create.”
A model of collaboration
United Way of the Lower Mainland is a Founding Funder of the Youth Futures Education Fund, alongside fellow Founding Funders Coast Capital Savings, and the BC Ministry of Children & Families and now, with its significant contribution, the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training.
The fund is governed by an advisory committee comprised of post-secondary institutions, government partners, and philanthropy groups. Additional funding is provided by the Vancouver Foundation, which houses the fund, while United Way manages the program.
“Thank you to the provincial government, and to the businesses, philanthropic organizations, and individual donors who have helped build the Youth Futures Education Fund,” said Maureen Young, Director Community Leadership at Coast Capital Savings Federal Credit Union.
“We look forward to continuing to grow the fund to support these young people with basic living expenses so they can focus on pursuing their dream of an education. By working together, we can all we be part of a solution that gives former youth in care the opportunity to succeed and empowers them to fully contribute to their communities.”
Check out the Youth Futures Education Fund.
Learn more about the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program.