Education Students Provide Academic Support to Youth in Foster Care

Education students mentored high school students in foster care during the First Star Central Florida Academy summer program.

The First Star program, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring foster youth have the academic skills needed to successfully transition to higher education and adulthood, has hosted local teens in foster care on campus for the past three years thanks to a partnership with CEDHP, College of Health and Public Affairs, and Community Based Care of Central Florida.

The empowering four-week program provided 20 students in grades 10-11 with an opportunity to live on UCF’s campus and immerse themselves in a learning experience that included art, math, and literacy activities, career preparation workshops, and field trips.

The student cohort also receives help with their homework along with life skills and psychosocial development one Saturday a month at UCF.

Elementary Education graduate and youth coach Janitsa Mena, ’17, has participated in the First Star Central Florida Academy summer and monthly Saturday programs for the past two years. The opportunity will help her become a better teacher.

“Mentoring youth in foster care has provided me with behavioral management skills and prepared me for handling different situations in the classroom.”

First Star Central Florida Academy’s UCF site director Dr. DeShawn Sims, ’16, said the summer program is beneficial to the youth in foster care.

“The program shows the students in foster care a new life and broadens their horizons. It also helps them build relationships and makes them feel that attending college is an achievable goal.”

Dawnasia Coleman is one of the first students to participate in the summer program and enjoys returning to UCF each year. She plays the clarinet and baritone saxophone and plans on attending college to become a music educator. She credits First Star for helping her discover and reach her potential.

“The program is an eye-opening experience that motivates me to do whatever I set my mind to doing along with giving me hope for my future.”

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