In 2009, 1,475 young adults aged out of foster care in Florida. Based on recent statistics, less than 50% will earn a high school diploma before they turn 22, most will experience homelessness and only 30% will be gainfully employed. Currently more than 90% of our 125 active participants are enrolled in school or gainfully employed. Nationally less than 3% of former foster youth ever obtain a college degree. There are currently 88 Educate Tomorrow participants who are now over 23 years old. Of those, 44% have a college degree or certification and 94% have their high school diploma or GED.
Educate Tomorrow is meeting a crucial need in Miami and has been recognized nationally for its design of a replicable model program. In 2010, The White House recognized Educate Tomorrow as a top 20 “Program of Promise” during National Mentoring month. And in March 2013 College Board, Advocacy and Policy Center awarded Educate Tomorrow with the 2013 Innovation Award for the Southern Region of the United States for "Getting In" to college. College Board awards 3-5 Innovation Awards nationally to schools and programs that show innovation and efficacy in increasing the percentage of low-income students getting into college.
Educate Tomorrow is dedicated to serving any student in need. However, there is a great opportunity for students that qualify for the Florida tuition waiver and Educate Tomorrow is determined to make sure the tuition waiver is being used successfully by supporting High School and College students reach their education related goals.
Below are the areas of Florida statute 1009.25 that Educate Tomorrow focuses on.
1009.25 Fee exemptions.—
(1) The following students are exempt from the payment of tuition and fees, including lab fees, at a school district that provides workforce education programs, Florida College System institution, or state university:
(c) A student who is or was at the time he or she reached 18 years of age in the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services or who, after spending at least 6 months in the custody of the department after reaching 16 years of age, was placed in a guardianship by the court. Such exemption includes fees associated with enrollment in career-preparatory instruction. The exemption remains valid until the student reaches 28 years of age.
(d) A student who is or was at the time he or she reached 18 years of age in the custody of a relative under s. 39.5085 or who was adopted from the Department of Children and Family Services after May 5, 1997. Such exemption includes fees associated with enrollment in career-preparatory instruction. The exemption remains valid until the student reaches 28 years of age.
(f) A student who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence or whose primary nighttime residence is a public or private shelter designed to provide temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized, or a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.
Florida foster youth who are in care when they turn 18 also qualify for the Road to Independence Scholarship which enables them to receive nearly $1,000 a month until they are 23 in order to pay for living expenses while a full time student. Sadly, this opportunity to break the cycle of poverty, homelessness, chronic joblessness, neglect and abuse is often lost due to a lack of support and preparedness.
Educate Tomorrow's Miami program steers these young people toward independence by providing one-on-one educational mentors for both current and former foster youth and other disadvantaged students. Research shows that youth in mentoring programs are more engaged in school and have better attendance. It has also been found that youth like those in Educate Tomorrow's program, who are the most disadvantaged and have high numbers of risk factors, benefit the most from mentoring programs. Our volunteers are community members willing to mentor these youth and assist them in the process of completing high school, applying to college or technical school and succeeding in obtaining a degree. Through one-on-one mentoring, education success events, college tours, life-skills and direct education support, Educate Tomorrow is changing lives using education.
Educate Tomorrow addresses the issue of educational attainment by integrating activities designed to support the physical, emotional, social, and academic needs of participating youth. This holistic emphasis on the interconnected skill sets of our youth serves to differentiate our program from more traditional mentoring programs, enabling it to be more effective in impacting the lives of our youth.
Educate Tomorrow began in 2003 as a traditional mentoring program, with mentors facilitating more than 22,000 volunteer hours towards our youth's pursuit of their college dreams by assisting them in planning and achieving their educational goals (). For teenagers transitioning out of the foster care system, providing support and access to information is often a quite intensive process, since navigating the ill-defined path through the levels of bureaucracy they confront can require a substantial effort and finesse. Unlike most youth, they must contend with a foster care system that is complex and consists of private organizations, government agencies, and the public school system. The assistance Educate Tomorrow provides was designed to meet these specialized needs. Furthermore, transitioning youth often became legal adults without having first gained the basic life, social, and emotional skills that most young adults acquire from a family environment; Educate Tomorrow makes considerable effort to fill this gap. As a result, Educate Tomorrow is currently focused on a three-part holistic program -designed to meet the educational, independent living, developmental and job placement needs of foster youth.
The cornerstone of Educate Tomorrow's program is one-on-one educational mentoring. A volunteer from the community is matched with a foster youth seeking a mentor. Each mentor is provided with Educate Tomorrow's mentoring curricula and receives training in (1) the specific needs of foster youth, (2) developing and achieving an educational goal plan, and (3) the principles of the Transition Framework. The Transition Framework, is based on the work of William Bridges (), and provides a model for understanding and managing the emotional aspects of foster youths' transition to adulthood and to academic achievement.
Dr. Ruby K. Payne has found that there are four reasons people leave poverty, one notable consideration is "sponsorship, (i.e., an educator, spouse, mentor, or role model), [and] convinces them that they could live differently ()". Educate Tomorrow provides foster youth with reliable adults to fill this role, who guide and sponsor our youth to ensure that they achieve independence through education.
Life Skills and Educational Success Events
Succeeding in school is impossible when fundamental, independent living skills have not yet been mastered. Educate Tomorrow sponsors events each month, these events are available to all foster youth and their mentors in which Educate Tomorrow staff, community service providers and professionals provide workshops and facilitate discussions on nutrition, budgeting, time management, career planning, housing options, and healthy living, among other topics.
Direct Education and Career Support
Through a generous donation in 2012 a Mentee Resource Center was designed and completed at the Educate Tomorrow office. The Mentee Resource Center provides students with access to the most highly effective educational software and test prep materials available on the market today. Educate Tomorrow has added a trained educator that provides Mentee's with structured one-on-one educational and career support, strengthening their knowledge, skills and abilities. Educate Tomorrow goal is to see college graduates who are prepared for the workforce by providing them with opportunities to network, build their resume and have effective communication skills through strategic partnerships with corporations and organizations in Miami.
Educate Tomorrow's Mentee Resource Center is open Monday-Friday at Educate Tomorrow's office and provides free access to PERT, FCAT, GED, SAT, ACT programs from proven companies like Merit, Kaplan, MyFoundations and Prepworks. Tutoring, financial planning, job searches, resume building, internship opportunities and a safe fun environment to meet and do homework is available. Anyone in Miami in highschool or college that can benefit from these services is invited, no one will be turned away.
Educate Tomorrow's International Program began in Kabey Fo, Niger, a small village located southeast of Niamey in West Africa. The village has a population of about 200- roughly 35 men, 55 women and 110 children. The school is host to 6 grade levels, adult literacy classes and is used for village forums. The Primary School was built in 2003 and has four classroom education centers. Educate Tomorrow pays for the students' meals, school supplies, transportation, boarding and other expenses. In addition, the organization has built and stocked a health care facility and trained health care workers to treat the people of the village. Today, Educate Tomorrow's programs in Miami are much larger in scale than the Niger program, but Niger remains close to the heart of co-founder Virginia Emmons and CEO Brett McNaught, who both served as Peace Corps volunteers in Niger from 2000-2003.
During the 2011-12 school year, 64 children received a quality education with paid and trained teachers, food, medicine, permanent classrooms, school supplies and tutoring. Of the 64, 61 advanced to the next grade level, a 95% success rate and the Kabey Fo Primary school was the highest rated primary school in the area. Also, Educate Tomorrow provided enough medicine for the entire village and solar for the school.
For the 2012-13 school year, 71 students are being served through Educate Tomorrow's programs and the students are in grades 1-11, 11% growth over last year.
In the summer of 2012 flooding on the Niger River was the worst in decades and many fishing villages in Educate Tomorrow's impact area of Kirtachi were washed away leaving hundreds of families not only without homes but without their fishing gear to go back out and catch the fish they rely on for food and trade. Educate Tomorrow through the financial support of many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers from Niger has been able to provide fishing gear to 128 families along the Niger River from August 2012-November 2012.
Click this link to hear more about how Virginia and Brett met in Niger http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRSrYGZewcA
Mentored foster youth in our program increase their grades and stay in school. They are more likely to continue on to higher education, exhibit greater self-esteem and improved interpersonal skills, and have greater communication skills. Educate Tomorrow youth leave with positive educational and career goals that they are infinitely more likely to realize than an at-risk youth without a mentor is.
The positive impacts of mentoring are visible in the current successes of youth participating in our program. Currently more than 90% of Educate Tomorrow's youth are currently enrolled in an educational institution or gainfully employed. Over the nine years of our operations, our mentors have successfully guided youth to (1) complete their high school diplomas, (2) to complete the associate's degree and certificate programs, (3) to obtain their bachelor's degrees and (4) to obtain Master's degrees.
We are also exceedingly proud to report that we currently have 9 vocational certifications, 14 Associates degrees, 12 Bachelor's degrees and 5 Masters degrees our alumni have earned.
 Bridges to Independence, Walden Family Services. San Diego, CA, 2005; Engaging Youth in the Transition Framework, The Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service Institute for Sector Innovation, University of Southern Maine, February 2008.