New program aims to help foster kids

Nicole Kelly, Staff Writer

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     According to Pennsylvania state statistics, approximately 13,000 to 15,000 children are currently in foster care system in Pennsylvania. The numbers are staggering, especially when considering 1,100 of these children in PA foster care will ‘age out’ of the system, or exit the system when they turn 18. Bloomsburg University has taken on an initiate to assist those Pennsylvania children currently in the foster care system.

     The new Bloomsburg University initiative is called the Anchor Program. The program was created to provide foster care youth between the ages of 15 and 18 the opportunity to explore their academic interests. The youth selected for the program will be from the local area foster care systems.
The program is a multi-year summer program in which children selected will have the opportunity to live on campus, receive meals, take classes of interest to them and engage with peers, all free of charge.

     There are numerous goals of the program. These goals include engaging the youth in a college life experience, allowing these youth to explore possible academic interests, developing independent living abilities for these youth, and allowing the youth to build relationships with Bloomsburg University students and faculty. “As a Bloomsburg Student, I’m proud of what my University is doing to help our local community youth.” Says Senior Kelly Haggerty.

     The application process for a youth in the foster care system is relatively simple. Youth ages 15 to 18 in the Pennsylvania foster care system are encouraged to apply. The initiative is looking specifically at helping the foster care system in the local counties, which include, Columbia, Luzerne, Snyder, Northumberland and Union counties. Interested youth should contact their case worker, who will help them to receive and fill out the application for the anchor program. Those parts of the anchor initiative, as well as foster care workers, will evaluate the applications and make final decisions on applicants. The program is accepting 40 applicants for this upcoming session.

     Students who are accepted into the program will receive the full Bloomsburg University college experience. They will be housed in residence halls on campus, where they will be supervised 24 hours a day by university officials. They will receive free meals at university dining facilities for their entire time in the program.

     The program will immerse these students in as many academic opportunities as possible. Planned activities thus far include field trips, hands on experience in the specific academic field of interest to the students and even the ability to receive certifications. There will also be recreational activities taking place during the youths’ experience, including movie nights and meet and greet events with current Bloomsburg University students. A major goal of the initiative is to include these youth in as much social engagement as they do academic engagement.

     Many BU students are standing behind this program, and happy to see an initiative like this taken at the University. University Freshman Kevin Rotanz said, “I hope this program is something that changes the lives of these people. These people are no different than we are, so we should all have the same opportunities to learn and grow in a university setting. I hope the program is one that will be continued for years to come.”