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Today @ Sam

Initiative To Help Students Move Forward

April 26, 2010
SHSU Media Contacts: Jennifer Gauntt

National Foster Care Month is held annually in May to salute individuals who provide a nurturing environment for those whose “families are in crisis and unable to care for them,” according to the National Foster Care Month Web site.

In recognition of this month, Sam Houston State University has taken steps to become a haven for students from fostered backgrounds and help them move forward with their education with a new initiative.

The FORWARD program, for former foster, orphan and wards of the state, is designed to help students who fall into one of those categories “transition into higher education and successfully complete their degree on time,” according to Candi Harris, FORWARD committee member.

“It’s generally shown that this group of students does not complete, if they come at all, their programs,” Harris said. “They have a harder time completing the full degree plan for various reasons: the fact that they don’t have any support, there are emotional and stability issues, and funding issues; that’s a huge thing.

“What we hear from these students is that they want to put their past behind them and move forward, and we’re trying to help them do that through higher education.”

Implemented by Vice President for Enrollment Management Heather Thielemann and Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs Keri Rogers, the FORWARD program serves as a means for direction and advice to those students, who often have difficulty navigating benefits they are eligible for and services the university offers.

Housed in the Student Success Initiatives Office, in Academic Building IV Room 202, the program will provide an advocate to answer all campus-related questions.

“If they need something, they’ll always have a place to go, they’ll see the same person all the time,” Rogers said. “The office will be a safety net here at the university.”

While SHSU currently has only approximately 65 students from those backgrounds on campus, the program also intends to serve as a means of recruitment, showing all high school and junior high school students that college can be a reality for them.

“Many times, these students don’t know what benefits are available to them. Although they receive a tuition and fee waiver at any state university in Texas, many don’t know that,” Thielemann said. “Part of our goal is to educate the students who are already here, but also to go out and recruit other students through agencies and group homes and let them know that we do have something here that will support them should they decide to go to Sam.”

The program is also looking into such things as providing a university-based transportation system and childcare for those who need it.

The idea of the FORWARD program is a relatively new one, according to Harris. SHSU’s university-wide committee first met to plan the program last September.

Other Texas programs are housed at Texas State—San Marcos, the University of North Texas, Texas Tech and Austin Community College, with emerging or pilot programs at the University of Texas—San Antonio and the University of Texas—El Paso.

For more information, call 936.294.3422 or visit www.shsu.edu/forward.


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