Ever since she was a little girl, Elanis knew she wanted to make a difference with her life. Her experience as a toddler in foster care, and the difficulties she faced when she was adopted at the age of 6, inspired her passion to become a social worker. “I want to be there for children and youth that might feel like no one is listening to them. I know what they may be going through.”
With support from the Youth Futures Education Fund (YFEF), Elanis is well on her way to creating the life she wants. The fund was established to cover basic living expenses like rent, food, bills, and textbooks. Elanis was relieved to learn she could use it when her old car broke down, and when she needed new tires. She didn’t have to miss a class and she wasn’t left with bills she wouldn’t have been able to pay. “I’m so passionate about wanting to be a social worker and being in this program. I want to be able to give them my all, and not have to worry about these other things.”
For young adults who have been in government care, a post-secondary education can seem out of reach. Although a tuition waiver program gives them the opportunity for education, additional funding can be the difference between earning a degree or not being able to continue because of financial pressures.
That’s where YFEF is making a difference. Basic annual living expenses for students amounts to $26,400 on average. For those living on their own with little or no family support, like Elanis, simply making rent can be a huge challenge. The fund also helps with expenses like technology, fuel for the car, phone bills, healthcare, and food. It’s vital support as the cost of living continues to rise.
YFEF partners with 27 post-secondary institutions throughout the province to ensure equal access to education. This includes Thompson Rivers University, where Elanis is studying. In 2020-2021, over $550,000 was disbursed, providing 519 students with low-barrier access to funds.
“Thanks to British Columbia’s Provincial Tuition Waiver Program, we’re seeing more former youth in care attend post-secondary than ever before and the resultant need for help with living expenses also continues to grow,” says Maureen Young, Coast Capital’s vice-president social purpose and chair of the Youth Futures Education Fund.
YFEF means support
In 2021, 5,259 children were in government care in British Columbia; 810 of those youth transitioned out of care or youth agreement. Like Elanis, many have faced a great deal of adversity, and ‘starting over’ with little or no support can be daunting.
Investments of $250,000 each into the fund by the Province of British Columbia and United Way British Columbia – working with communities in BC’s Interior, Lower Mainland, and Central & Northern Vancouver Island (United Way BC), along with support from many other donors are helping ensure youth formerly in care can follow their passions, working towards careers that matter to them. In 2022-2023, the Youth Futures Education Fund will distribute $600,000 across the province, ensuring these students can focus on their studies, not just survival.
Experience drives motivation
When she was in Kindergarten, Elanis was adopted and became close to her adoptive dad; he was her rock. In 2011 when he suddenly passed away, she found herself heartbroken and back in foster care. The ongoing feeling that nobody was listening to her was instrumental in motivating her to make something of her life. She fought hard to graduate with honours and was determined to learn from the past to become the kind of social worker she always wanted to have, but never did.
“I’m doing my practicum here at Lii Michif Otipemisiwak Family and Community Services. I’m Métis, and I don’t really know much about that part of me, but I have been learning about it here. And so, I think that after I grad, I’ll apply to some places here so that I can help other Métis or Indigenous children that might be going through what I went through.” Elanis said.
“Youth aging out of care experience severe financial challenges – particularly in the first few years,” says Jasica Grewal, United Way BC Director, Community Impact and Investment. “Over half of these youth will face challenges paying for secured housing, paying for living expenses or transportation. YFEF helps to support these costs so youth can focus on their education. Youth who have their basic needs met report better overall wellbeing and health. YFEF is providing these protective factors through the low barriered fund to ensure they thrive.”
Elanis is grateful for the financial support, so she can live her life.
“I would like to say a big ‘Maarsii,’ which is ‘thank you’ in Michif, which is the Métis language. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to fully invest in my future and my education. I don’t know how my life would be if I didn’t get the help from the donors. It’s made a big difference in my life.”
Help more youth achieve their dreams
Over 2,000 students have been served since YFEF was first established in 2014, but more young people need support to be successful. By donating, you are helping youth build a solid foundation to approach their education and their futures.
Let’s be here for brighter futures. For youth like Elanis.
Donate today. For tomorrow.