By Priscilla Galindo
Students began to shuffle into Nelson Hall Room 112. It’s the first club meeting of the semester. These students identify as ELITE scholars, Excelling and Living Independently Through Education. ELITE scholars is a club on campus geared towards helping former foster youth/ independent students navigate their way through college.
Adrienne Colgrove-Raymond, coordinator of ITEPP & Elite Scholars ELITE, brings the meeting to a start.
“It’s going to be a great year, we have a lot to look forward to,to overcome the barriers facing their post-secondary education,” said Colgrove-Raymond. A few years back Colegrove-Raymond was approached by a few students at HSU wondering if there were any programs for former foster youth, she says. She asked around and everyone told her no. She was then given the opportunity to work with students to create a program that would eventually become the ELITE scholars today.
More than 100 students identify as former foster youth or independent by exception at HSU. The club has five students who come regularly to the Friday meetings but are looking at ways to reach out to more of the students because the club has a lot to offer that many may not be aware of.
The program has liaisons from seven pertinent university departments in overcoming the barriers facing their post-secondary education. Those liaisons are in Admission, Educational Opportunity Program/Student Support Services, Disabled Support Services, Counseling & Psychology Services, Financial Aid, Registrar and Housing departments.
“I have solicited funding to assist ELITE Scholars to find on and off campus jobs that are related to their major and/or career goals,” says Shaylynne Masten, a recent HSU grad student and current regional foster youth liaison for ELITE shares with the members of the club.
“I love coming to meetings because it gives me a safe space to share my story and gives me opportunities I didn’t believe were possible,” says Christina Cole, a senior in Social Work major at HSU. Cole shares that in the past ELITE was able to pay her way to a social work conference where she was able to learn practical things about her field.
In the past, ELITE was also able to send their students to New York, Arizona, and a few other places to look at grad schools. Colegrove-Raymond reminds the members that if there is something “related to your field of work” to come speak with her and they will try to make it happen.
“ELITE has helped me a lot and not just academically but personally,” says Starr GreenSky, a 21-year-old transfer student. “I wish we were a bigger group because we could really do some good.” She says she hopes that there will be more programs like ELITE for her younger siblings.
ELITE scholars meet weekly on Fridays mostly in Nelson Hall, although the particular room number changes, all former foster youth, and students that identify as independent by exception are welcome to join and may reach out to Adrienne Colegrove-Raymond and Shaylynee Masten for further information. They have set Oct 28 as a tentative date for their Welcome Back Gathering. They will be having a scary movie night, dinner, pumpkin carving, and costume party. Everyone is welcome.