WHAT WE DO

With the help of donors, volunteers, and interdisciplinary researchers, Champions Empowering Champions can provide a comprehensive program to benefit the lives of foster youth attending college.

CHAMPIONS EMPOWERING

Academic research shows that former foster youth do not have an economic safety net or adequate resources to meet their basic needs. Support for unfunded living and academic essentials reduces economic stress on Student Champions and affords them the opportunity to focus on academic rigors, successfully earn a college degree, and transition into adulthood.

Student Champions are college students who have experienced foster care or homelessness. These students have overcome tremendous adversity, defied insurmountable odds, and demonstrated tenacity and resilience. Unfortunately, Student Champions frequently lack a support system for navigating the challenges and celebrating the successes that come with entering college and transitioning into adulthood.

A vital element of our multidisciplinary research influenced program involves the development of a lifelong support network for our Student Champions. We have attracted successful professionals from the local community to serve as Volunteer ChampionsThe Volunteer Champions empower and support Student Champions as they overcome academic, professional, and personal challenges. They are enthusiastic supporters, relentless advocates, and active participants in the success of Student Champions.

The lifelong support network for Student Champions also includes fellow students and volunteers that are organized into support SquadsOur development of support Squads, organizes informal groups of individuals with a common identity and a sense of solidarity to improve Student Champion engagement and comfort with familiar individuals that will remain intact from freshman year through graduation and beyond.

Student Champions participate in community service efforts focused on youth who are homeless or in foster care. This work provides Student Champions with a sense of accomplishment and gives them opportunities to serve as role models. Through their service, they begin to help shape the future of the next generation of college-aged students, transforming participants into active citizens who contribute to their communities.

Our team of Volunteer Champions also lead educational and team-building workshops for our Student Champions to develop essential academic, professional, and life skills. Workshops cover topics such as time management, stress management, goal setting, financial literacy, healthy lifestyles, independent living skills, and professional development.

Statistics and Research

Nearly 80% of foster youth aspire to attend college but are deterred by the cost, often must work full-time, and research indicates that they are behind their peers in educational and emotional intelligence.1  Less than 20% of foster youth that graduate high school attend college; as less than half of foster youth graduate high school, about 8% of all foster youth will attend college. Multiple studies find that foster youth who make it to college are much more likely to leave school or drop out prior to earning a degree, even compared to first generation college students.2  Champions Empowering Champions was founded to help improve these outcomes. Since our inception in November 2018, we have worked to complement existing services and develop innovative programming built on insights gleaned from interdisciplinary evidence-based research.

Frequent school changes, a common event during foster care placement changes, are correlated with lower academic outcomes and academic readiness for those attending college. Foster youth frequently require a ‘catch-up’ period to take classes they should have completed in high school, which increases their time to finish their degree.3  The variety of barriers and burdens that foster youth face in their journey to earn a college degree warrants wider national attention and increased research along with improved data sharing among states.

Champions Empower Champions has made evidence-based research an integral part of our programming. A group of acclaimed Ph.D.’s from a variety of academic fields make up the Champions Empowering Champions Research Team. 

The research projects will:

  • 1) Evaluate the existing support system and establish baseline metrics
  • 2) Continue to develop and refine the essential elements of our programming
  • 3) Evaluate the effectiveness the programming has on foster youth outcomes and the economic impact of our programming

In addition, the research team will seek grants and government funding for research and programming that contribute to achieving better outcomes for socioeconomically disadvantaged youth.

Partnership with Florida Atlantic University

Champions Empowering Champions partnered with Florida Atlantic University (FAU) to learn best practices and identify deficiencies in the support systems for college students who have experienced foster care or homelessness. This partnership has resulted in many accomplishments, including:

  • Developing an Advisory Board consisting of highly accomplished members with diverse backgrounds
  • Forming an interdisciplinary research team consisting of FAU faculty committed to engaging in research to support our Mission
  • Being selected as a member of the FAU Tech Runway Venture Class 7
  • Establishing an account with the FAU Foundation which enables donors to make tax-deductible contributions
  • Securing the ability to use FAU space resulting in minimal overhead costs
  • Beginning volunteer recruiting and training efforts
  • Hosting student focus groups to ensure student perspectives are integrated into our programming
  • Scheduling Inaugural Squad Night for September 25, 2019

*With the passage of Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, new guidance and provisions were established to assist school districts in more effectively serving the needs of foster youth. These provisions should also contribute to more accurate national data with shared resources and guidelines among states.

Data Sources:

 1  The Legal Center for Foster Care and Education

 2  Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago

 3  U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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