For most colleges the COVID-19 pandemic has left empty campuses with vacant classrooms, residence hall rooms, and dining facilities. Faculty are teaching online, academic support services such as tutoring are offered virtually, and most staff are doing their jobs while working remotely. The business of colleges and universities to educate students in the same but they are accomplishing their educational mission in new and innovative ways. But what about college students who have experience with foster care? Some have no stable home to go to, some could go home but their ability to complete online coursework would be hampered, and yet some are sheltering-in-place at their off-campus apartments or with their families. What support do these students need to continue their education? How are foster care youth in high school feeling about college? In particular, we know that foster care youth who desire to go to college and those in college have some concerns during these uncertain times about how universities will respond to their needs. Recently, I received inquiries from foster care youth and individuals who work with foster care youth asking what we have done to support Kutztown University students who have experience with foster care. Therefore, I thought I would take the time to write about the support activities of our Providing Resources and Opportunities for Future Standouts (PROFS) program during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to the benefits our PROFS Program usually offers, we have:
- allowed students to remain on campus, moved them into apartment suites with no additional charges, and gave them $500 to use to purchase food from local grocery stores and restaurants
- purchased pans, dishes and utensils along with dish soap, paper towels, and toilet paper for on-campus students
- gave grocery store gift cards to students living on-campus and students living in local off-campus apartments
- provided two meals per day for the first three weeks of the pandemic (for all on-campus students even if they didn’t have a meal plan)
- assisted in facilitating delivery/pick up of food from the local food pantry
- worked with all students to apply for SNAP benefits
- made our campus nursing staff available to see students with medical needs
- provided online resources including connections to tutoring, disability resources, and mental health counseling
- hosted virtual study halls to help students with school work, studying, and other responsibilities
- coordinated fun virtual activities
In addition, we go above and beyond for our students. We have delivered thermometers to students to ensure they can check for COVID-19 symptoms. Also, we have one PROFS students who is auditioning for graduate programs in the visual and performing arts. In support of this student, our PROFS staff and students are viewing the student’s virtual practice audition. We are paying the initial car insurance premium for one of our students who will need a car to secure an internship before graduation later this year.
At Kutztown University, we desire to be the premier higher education institution for foster care youth. We would be happy to speak to foster care youth who plan to pursue higher education. We can even host a virtual session (or in-person session after the pandemic) to talk about college and our PROFS Program. We know some foster care youth are feeling like college is out of reach during these challenging times, but we want them to know there is a place for them at Kutztown University.