In an effort to support young adults aging out of the foster system, Community Based Care of Central Florida (CBCCF) – the leading child welfare organization in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties – recently launched a college scholarship and mentoring program that is funded by a $200,000 donation from the Orlando-based Lawrence E. White Family Foundation. Funds for the inaugural “AOK Scholars” are being distributed on an as-needed basis to 16 participants, who are pursuing post-secondary education opportunities at various Florida colleges and universities.
CBC of Central Florida hopes to improve the college graduation rate among foster kids, which currently stands at 5 percent statewide. The AOK Scholars program comes on the heels of a new Florida law taking effect this month that gives those in foster care the option of staying in the system past their 18th birthdays until age 21, as long as they are working, in school or training for a job. About 600 young adults in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties are affected by the new law.
The scholarship recipients – who range in age from 18 to 23 – will be required to complete community service hours. The Lawrence E. White Family Foundation also provided laptop computers for participants who needed them.
“These students have faced instability and setbacks through no fault of their own, and are determined to succeed in spite of the challenges,” said Keri Flynn, community relations manager for CBC of Central Florida, who oversees the program and mentors participants. “We work with each young person to identify specific needs, like transportation, assistance with utility bills or school supplies. We’re also forming relationships with these students, so if there’s a bump in the road, they have somebody to talk with.”
The Foundation launched the scholarships after learning about CBCCF’s Independent Living program, which provides teens and young adults with mentoring, job training, and financial and housing counseling to support their transition out of foster care. The program has partnerships with UCF and Seminole State College, as well as an employment initiative with Goodwill Industries of Central Florida.
“We are proud to support this scholarship program for young people who have been in foster care,” said Lisa Blackwelder, Executive Director of the Lawrence E. White Family Foundation. “During this critical transition period for young adults, the AOK Scholars program provides a support system and financial buffer to help these students be set up for success in college and their future careers.”
Glen Casel, CEO of CBCCF, added: “We’re grateful that the Lawrence E. White Family Foundation has taken an active role in empowering these students, not only through this generous donation, but through ongoing personal support of achieving their goals. This scholarship program helps pave the way for long-term success for these 16 deserving students.”
To learn more about donating to AOK Scholars or becoming a mentor, contact Keri Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org or (321) 441-2356.