In June, Ashley accepted her Bachelor of Arts in Child & Youth Care (BACYC) degree from New Westminster’s Douglas College in a virtual ceremony. Completing her post-secondary education marks the close of one chapter in her life and the beginning of another.
“I’m really proud of myself for not giving up and that I took the time to find a field that I was interested and passionate about,” Ashley says. And she has a lot to be proud of.
Thanks to her determination, support from BC’s provincial tuition waiver program, the Youth Futures Education Fund (YFEF) for basic living expenses and fund donors, the former youth in care now works with the Ministry of Children and Families as a social worker.
“These achievements are reason to celebrate as COVID-19 disproportionally affected former youth in care, who were and are facing precarious employment and housing due to the pandemic,” says Maureen Young, Chair, YFEF Advisory Committee.
“While approximately 92% of BC parents with children under 30 help them financially – this critical support is not often available for former youth in care. By providing support to young people like Ashley, the Youth Futures Education Fund helped ensure students were able to continue or complete their education during this challenging period.”
In the Spring of 2020, the fund added an additional $50,000 in emergency support to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 from interruptions to school programs to inability finding summer jobs to keep youth in school.
Supporting all students pays off
In 2019/20, fourteen percent of students receiving help from YFEF graduated, creating a richer, more vibrant community that values all young people’s perspectives and experiences.
Youth Futures provides support for basic living expenses to youth who have been in BC government care or in the care of a Delegated Aboriginal Agency (DAA). The fund was established by Coast Capital, The Province of British Columbia, and the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth and is guided by an Advisory Committee. It is held at the Vancouver Foundation and is administered by United Way British Columbia.
Finding the right fit
“When I was in high school, I really wanted to pursue nursing. I took a lot of science and math courses to prepare me for post-secondary but when I entered university in 2014 at Vancouver Island University, I got to the point where I was questioning my decisions. I did not feel fully in it and decided to take a step away from school,” Ashley says.
She returned to school in 2016 and transferred to Douglas College where she started a degree program with a focus in marketing at the Coquitlam campus. She quickly learned she was not interested in the business field. She took a variety of classes before landing on child and youth care.
While Ashley was on the right track pursuing a degree had its challenges.
“Youth in and from government care don’t necessarily have the same opportunity to ask for financial support if an emergency comes up or if you’re just tight for funds,” Ashley says.
She accessed the fund for vehicle repairs to ensure she could attend classes and practicums pre-COVID. Once the pandemic hit, Ashley used YFEF funds to purchase a newer laptop and desk for virtual learning so she could study more comfortably.
“In a couple of years once I have a few years of work experience under my belt, I would love to go back to school to pursue a master’s degree,” Ashley says. “My ultimate goal would be to end up influencing policy in child welfare.”
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