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Kansas Kids @ GEAR UP Gives Youth in Foster Care Hope for the Future

A child enters foster care every two minutes in the United States (Adoption and Foster Care Analysis, 2014). There are 7,192 children in foster care in Kansas. Of these children, only half will graduate high school and just 10% will graduate from college. These staggering statistics may shock you, but they are the reality for many youths in Kansas. Oftentimes these children will focus solely on survival and not think much about their future. Kansas Kids @ GEAR UP is a U.S. Department of Education funded grant program through Wichita State University that aims to change these statistics and help youth in foster care see that there can be a bright future ahead of them.

KKGU serves 2,500 middle school and high school aged youth in foster care throughout the state of Kansas. Their goal is to provide mentoring and other services to increase the number of students being promoted to the next grade level, graduating high school and going on to college. College access advisors are spread throughout the state in cities such as Dodge City, Topeka, Kansas City, Wichita and Pittsburg to help these youth succeed. Advisors meet with students as groups or one-on-one at local schools and group homes across the state.

Programs are offered throughout the school year that help them meet academic goals and also teach them interpersonal skills. Students may go on college visits, attend workshops on financial aid, fill out college applications, and prepare for the ACT test with the help of KKGU advisors. Life skills, such as time management are also discussed during group sessions. The focus of KKGU is to help these children see that there is a future for them outside of foster care.

Summer programs are also being offered to Wichita area youth in foster care in the GEAR UP program. There are themed weeks such as Harry Potter Week, Spoken Word, STEAM, and Fit Kids Week. Each week gives the youth the opportunity to meet new friends, learn more about themselves and going to college, and gives them activities that will allow them to grow throughout the summer.

Kansas Kids @ GEAR UP has proven successful; meeting goals each year that the grant program is funded. 80% of the youth in the GEAR UP program are promoted to the next grade level. 70% of participating high school seniors will complete a secondary school diploma. Also, several youths are awarded $3,000 per semester in college scholarships each year. KKGU aims to increase knowledge of postsecondary education and create lasting bonds with youth in foster care so that they have a constant advisor in their life to help them navigate the waters of middle school, high school, and their first year of college.

To learn more about Kansas Kids @ GEAR UP, visit their website at www.kkgu.org.

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