National surveys suggest that, although youth with experience in the foster care system are no less motivated than their peers, only between 3-10% of them will earn a college degree in their lifetimes. PEF’s Fostering College Readiness initiative aims to change that. With support from the Philadelphia Foundation and Brook J. Lenfest Foundation, PEF is helping connect young people to their financial aid entitlements and cultivate pipelines to colleges with strong support networks for system-involved youth.
On April 21st, PEF hosted a Fostering College Readiness trip to one such institution: West Chester University. The group was comprised of 25 students with past or current connections to the foster care system, and their companions. The goal of the trip was to highlight the benefits of West Chester’s Promise Program and its Lenfest-sponsored Immensitas Scholarship, which covers non-tuition expenses for eligible students. This immersive visit not only exposed students to higher education possibilities but also instilled within them a sense of excitement and motivation for their own futures.
Upon arrival, students were greeted by Admissions staff and enthusiastic student ambassadors who served as their tour guides throughout the day. The tour included a walk around West Chester’s sunny and vibrant campus, a glimpse into dorm life, facilities, and lunch in the cafeteria. Following lunch, students attended a panel discussion hosted by WCU’s Promise Program, a campus-based persistence program for unaccompanied homeless and foster youth. The program offers students access to year-round housing on campus, food, supplies, priority employment opportunities, scholarship funds, and monthly community-building programming. Trip participants were inspired by stories of fellow foster youth who had successfully navigated the transition to college life and are thriving within the university environment.
In addition to academic resources, the students learned of the abundance of extracurricular activities available at West Chester and witnessed the transformative power of involvement beyond the classroom. It was an eye-opening experience that allowed them to envision themselves as active participants in a vibrant college community.
The visit to West Chester University demonstrates the critical role PEF plays as a connector between Philadelphia students and good-fit, supportive postsecondary opportunities. The Fostering College Readiness project ensures that this transformative experience is not an isolated event, but part of an ongoing support system for these students. Our thanks to the Philadelphia Foundation, Brook J. Lenfest Foundation, and Tori Nuccio and Ian Davis from WCU Financial Aid for making the trip a reality!