Many pursuing higher education struggle to balance college and personal lives, but for former foster youth, the challenges are daunting. Bridging Success, a Maricopa Community Colleges program for students who experienced foster care in Arizona, plays a key role in helping those students succeed.

Working with Maricopa Community College District faculty and staff, the Bridging Success program coordinator establishes partnerships with groups and organizations focused on assisting Maricopa students. A recent two-year, $200,000 grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust is allowing that work to continue. The grant provides salary and benefits for the coordinator who connects students to services and resources that help them stay in school and graduate.  Since 2015, the Trust provided funding for Bridging Success, which supported over 1,400 students in the past seven years.

“Students all across our District continue to struggle with basic needs, which are preventing them from continuing with their education,” said Dr. Ray A. Ostos, District Director for Student Affairs, Maricopa Community Colleges. “Bridging Success continues to make a significant difference in the lives of our foster care students. Through this program, and with the help of this grant, our students can access support systems, resources, allies and champions to assist them on their academic journeys.”

National research shows that only one in four young adults aging out of the foster care system complete a certificate or degree program and only 3% complete a four-year degree. Such youth are more likely to face prison, become homeless and have a harder time holding a steady job as adults. In Arizona, more than 700 children age out of the foster care system annually.

“Bridging Success provides just the right support for former foster youth who are navigating the challenges of higher education,” said Trustee Chair Carol Schilling, Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. “It is an honor and privilege to invest in a program that helps students who embrace the opportunity to improve their futures.”

Ann James, a GateWay Community College student, understands the challenges foster children face. Growing up in foster care, she was shuffled around, never truly feeling at home. Determined to grow from her experience, Ann promised she would work to ensure others would not have to suffer from the same emptiness she experienced. She began work as a Certified Nursing Assistant but later moved into a different role. She never let the dream of becoming a Registered Nurse die and later enrolled in the evening nursing program at GWCC to begin her associate degree. (Read more of Ann’s story.)

For more information about the Bridging Success Initiative and foster youth programs at the Maricopa Community Colleges, please visit https://my.maricopa.edu/support/foster-youth. Donations can be made at https://mcccdf.org/foster. 

The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust was established upon the death of Nina Mason Pulliam in 1997 to support the causes she loved in her home states of Arizona and Indiana. The Trust seeks to help people in need, protect animals and nature, and enrich community life in metropolitan Indianapolis and Phoenix. Since its inception, the Trust has distributed nearly $364 million to 1,018  organizations. For more information visit www.ninapulliamtrust.org.