Traverse City Record-Eagle


December 29, 2013

Editorial: Desire to reach out doesn't have a season

As we cope with a holiday shopping season that now begins on Halloween and lasts through the new year, more people are also going out of their way to stretch the best part of the season throughout the year.

Northwestern Michigan College has gotten statewide recognition for a program aimed at a group of young people who have long been little known and easily forgotten - 20-somethings who have grown up in foster care and usually have left the system.

They often have no family to turn to for support and advice. At an age when many of their peers are heading to college, they have to find a job and a place to live while making difficult choices about what they're going to do with their lives.

Lisa Thomas, NMC associate dean of Student Life, and Joseph Sanok, an NMC counselor, both came from a social work background and were aware of research showing that only 2 to 4 percent of kids who grow up in foster care complete a college degree. That's an alarmingly low number that sets the stage for a lifetime of just getting by.

So Thomas and Sanok worked with NMC’s admissions and financial aid departments and instructors to find ways to help them make it.

NMC now waives registration fees, hosts one-on-one campus tours and connects students to tutors and academic support centers. The financial aid office has a person to help with tuition assistance programs.

The Student Life office provides office space for Susie Greenfelder, an educational planner from the Department of Human Services who helps students troubleshoot situations they can't solve on their own.

The Muster Project, organized by Student Life and the Maritime Heritage Alliance, helps link students with a student mentor.

“The biggest predictor of success is if a student feels there is at least one person on campus who knows their name and cares about them,” Thomas said.

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