Building a Future for Former Foster Kids at YSU

By Amanda Joerndt

Bridges to Success is a program that gives former foster kids a chance to attend college with several benefits and start their career on the right path.

The program was founded through Homes For Kids Inc. to provide a sense of belonging and stability to kids who have been emancipated at the age of 18 and are in custody of the state.

Photo by Tanner Mondok/The Jambar

Bridges to Success provides housing, education, employment and well-being resources for all students who have been through the foster care system.

Senate Bill 50, which gives funding for Ohio’s youth who are aging out of foster care, was proposed into law in July 2017 and became active in February 2018 for students attending Youngstown State University.

The bill was created for the Bridges’ program and increases the age that people must leave foster care from 18 to 21 years old.

Jeff Orbin, counselor at Homes for Kids and a Bridges to Success liaison, helps kids get in contact with YSU resources to start their college education through the program.

Orbin said the program gives students several benefits while attending YSU.

“It provides stability, any additional supports they may need in the community and on campus and insurance as well,” Orbin said.

Bridges to Success has connections through YSU to help any former foster kid who is seeking guidance to a better future.

Orbin said building a group on campus that can help these students is an important part of the program.

“Our main goal is to have a support team at YSU and if the word gets out that there are students who qualify, then YSU can become a destination,” Orbin said. “They know that there is a lot of support and we were excited that YSU was willing to work with us.”

The program is active on campus and two students who have been through the foster care system are starting their college education through it.

Serena Marshall, a freshman emergency medical technician major, said she heard about the program through her case worker and was eager to start her experience in the EMT program.

Marshall said the program has helped her pursue her goals while attending YSU.

“The Bridges to Success program helped me take my education to the next level here at YSU,” Marshall said. “They basically just keep in touch with us and they give us everything we would need.”

The program will pay for her entire college education while providing housing, as well.

Zachary Robinson-Hunley, a freshman civil and industrial engineering major, said the program has helped him adjust to being in college.

“They’ve been very helpful and have helped me with my books and everything. They help me out with money, so I can get through the courses.” Robinson-Hunley said.

Robinson-Hunley said he also got involved with student employment on campus to help him guide his college experience in the right direction.

He said he knew the program would be a good opportunity for him to get involved on campus and help other students go through the program.

“I had an interview with Students for Success and they wanted to learn more about the foster care system and how the transition is so far,” Robinson-Hunley said.

The students said Bridges to Success provided new opportunities and a sense of security on campus.