Fostering Community

New Program Boosts Students Who Lack Traditional Support
by Sala Levin ’10 | Illustration by Ryumi Sung

For many students starting college, advice on which courses to take, extra cash for a new backpack or just a comforting conversation are only a text message away. But for students who come from the foster care system or who have been homeless, help can be much more elusive.

Fostering Terp Success, a new program from the Division of Student Affairs, aims to bolster—or even create—a support system for these students. Participating Terps receive micro-grants to buy textbooks, food and toiletries, bedding and linens, and a plethora of school supplies. They’re also paired with mentors and attend workshops on personal and professional growth.

“We wanted to make sure when we created this program that we drew the circle as wide as possible and recognized those overlapping challenges with food and housing insecurity and also that lack of a network of support, and how all of those things together impact students,” says Brian Watkins, director of Parent and Family Affairs and chair of Fostering Terp Success.

Over the summer, campus coaches—mentors who commit to nurturing a relationship with a student throughout their time at the university—underwent training to begin to understand how the trauma of the foster care system or homelessness can affect a student’s ability to concentrate on schoolwork. Mentors meet at least monthly with their student and act as a cheerleader.

“It could be as simple as a text to say, ‘Hey, thinking about you, hope you have a great day’—providing some of the interaction that would happen from a family member,” says Watkins.

Ten students are taking part in the program; Watkins estimates that 75 current Terps come from foster care, but said the actual number might be higher. The number of students who come from a background of unstable housing is harder to assess, he says.

Students who were known to have been in foster care received a letter from Enrollment Management over the summer alerting them to the new program. Other students known to have had housing instability were also informed about the program.

Monnyae Lucas ’22 was raised by her grandmother in Baltimore and connected with Watkins through her high school adviser. She says the highlight of the program is the sense of community and support that would be otherwise missing. “I don’t necessarily have an escape, just someone I can talk to about what’s going on, and maybe they could relate to what’s going on.”

She hopes other students from similar backgrounds will join the program. “My biggest thing I would say is you’re not alone—there’s always a resource for you,” she says.


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