SET with MET
Growing up in the foster care system, Heaven Shaman-Page was never encouraged to dream of attending college.
“I was kind of told subtly that I would never be able to go to college because I wouldn’t be able to afford it,” she recalled.
Fast-forward to today, as Shaman-Page prepares to pursue a master’s degree after earning a bachelor’s in social work from Ferris State University – academic success that she is quick to at least partially attribute to the Fostering Futures Scholarship Trust Fund.
The Fostering Futures Scholarship program, which is administered by the Michigan Education Trust (MET) prepaid tuition plan and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, provides scholarships of up to $3,000 per academic year that assist former foster care students with college expenses.
“The Fostering Futures Scholarship has helped me immensely,” said Shaman-Page, who lived alternately with her biological mother, in foster homes and with family members from the age of 1 until she was adopted at age 16. “It’s really pushed me to reach a lot of goals.”
She’s not alone.
Seventy percent of teens who emancipate from foster care report that they want to attend college, but fewer than 10 percent who graduate from high school enroll in an institution of higher education – and of those, fewer than 3 percent receive a degree.
Thanks to fundraisers held throughout the state, however, as many as 500 students a year receive Fostering Futures scholarships that offset the cost of going to a Michigan college.
Since 2012, Fostering Futures Scholarship fundraising events have brought in more than $1.2 million to fund scholarships awarded to youth exiting foster care.
The Fostering Futures Scholarship program will build on that total during two upcoming events:
“Our annual fundraising events are a chance to have fun while supporting a great cause,” said Robin Lott, executive director of MET, a Section 529 college savings plan that allows families to buy future college tuition at today’s prices. “Fostering Futures Scholarship perfectly complements MET’s mission of helping to ensure children have the opportunity to pursue their goal of a college education.”
Applications for a Fostering Futures Scholarship can be completed in the MI Student Aid Student Scholarships and Grants Portal at http://www.michigan.gov/missg. They are also available for download at http://www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid or by calling 888-447-2687. While the application process for the 2019-20 academic year has closed, it will reopen in spring 2020 for the 2020-21 academic year.
“Something I would say to other students who have experienced the foster care system to encourage them to go after their dreams would be first of all to ask for help,” Shaman-Page said. “It doesn’t make you weak. It’s actually a sign of strength because college is tough, school is tough, life is tough.
“Another thing is to take all that negative energy from your past and use that as motivation to prove everyone who has told you no, you can’t do it, to prove them wrong,” she said. “I’ve always told myself that I don’t want to be another statistic, unless it’s a positive one.”
Although Shaman-Page is still deciding how she will put her master’s degree to use, she said she is committed to helping youth.
To further that effort, she is also considering writing her memoirs. She already knows the central theme: “It is possible to chase after your dreams and accomplish them.”
More information about Fostering Futures Scholarship is available at www.fosteringfutures-mi.com. Reservations for fundraising events, as well donations to the scholarship fund, are also accepted at the site.