UC Blue Ash to provide additional support for students who were in foster care

College first in Hamilton County to receive Ohio Reach Postsecondary Designation

Jaleshia Brown headshot

Jaleshia Brown is a foster care alumnus who earned degrees in criminal justice from UC Blue Ash and UC Uptown.

As the number of foster children who graduate high school is growing locally, the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College is adding resources designed to support their success in higher education.

UC Blue Ash has received Ohio Reach Postsecondary Designation from the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE). It is one of only 40 Ohio campuses to earn this designation, and it’s the only one in Hamilton County.

The news comes as more kids who have been in the foster care system are finishing high school. Hamilton County Job & Family Services reports that 82 foster children graduated from area high schools this spring, which sets a new record for the county.

Ohio Reach is a network of professionals, advocates and students across the state that support former foster youth on their higher education journey. The network provides resources to institutions of higher education, child welfare agencies and foster care alumni enrolled in higher education to support their academic success.

The Ohio Reach designation is reserved for colleges and universities meeting criteria that depict their support of students with experience in foster care. It includes a $2,500 award from ODHE to develop programming for foster care alumni.

ODHE notes that criteria for receiving the designation includes:

  • A designated campus liaison
  • Champions in various campus departments
  • The ability to connect students to resources (basic needs, food, housing)
  • Community-building opportunities for students
  • Targeted outreach to students and efforts to identify and support them
  • Expanding the eligibility of on-campus services
  • Staff training on working with alumni of foster care
  • Succession/transition planning
  • Data collection
  • Mentorship

“The Ohio Reach designation is so important because it gives us the resources to support our students who are foster alumni, and it helps us connect them with statewide services and develop special programming at our college,” said Laurie Malone, director of Academic Advising at UC Blue Ash and the designated campus liaison for Ohio Reach. “It also helps us build trust — it gives us legitimacy and shows that we have the commitment and resources to make a difference. We can really do a lot of good with this.”

The designation also offers a sign of hope to foster care alumni who are fighting the odds as they look for the opportunity to pursue their college degree.

“The college graduation rate is so low for current and former foster youth because it is hard to thrive and focus on school when you are constantly in survival mode — trying to figure out where your next meal is coming from or where you are going to lay your head at night,” said Jaleshia Brown, a foster care alumnus who earned her associate degree in criminal justice from UC Blue Ash and her bachelor’s degree from UC while graduating with honors.

She benefitted from funding through the state that is specifically for current or former foster children. “Many of us are the first in our families to attend college. Ohio Reach allows us to be the first in our families to graduate college.”

Brown works as a coordinator for the Hamilton County Youth Advisory Board, an advocacy group for current and former foster youth that is working to improve the foster care system and influence policy change.

Malone notes that the programming at UC Blue Ash will include welcome packages for new students, financial aid workshops, networking events with other foster care alumni and support with finding housing or various community resources. She hopes the designation will also help the college in identifying students who were in foster care so they can apply for Education Training Vouchers (ETVs) through the state. The ETVs provide up to $5,000 per year for foster alumni who are currently in college. Emergency relief funding of up to $1,500 per year is also available through Ohio Reach.

“Identifying our students who have experience with foster care can be challenging,” said Malone. “We’re adding a question about this to our new student orientation materials, and we’re working on ways to better identify current students so they can apply for an ETV and access other resources available through the state. A lot of students could be eligible for funding that is specific to this population but just don’t know about it.”

Learn more about the Ohio Reach Postsecondary Designation, including a map of Ohio Reach schools.

Featured image: Students walking outside of Progress Hall on the UC Blue Ash College campus. Photo/UC Blue Ash.

About UC Blue Ash College

UC Blue Ash College is a regional college within the University of Cincinnati. It offers one of the best values in higher education with access to a nationally recognized UC education in more than 50 degree and certificate programs, as well as tuition that is about half of most colleges and universities. The college is located on a scenic 135-acre wooded campus in the heart of Blue Ash, Ohio. To learn more, call 513-558-9495, visit us online, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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