Support for Success: UA’s Foster Child Initiative
By Sara Hartley
Helping people has always been a passion for Dr. Lowell Davis, assistant dean of students. “As a college student, I would see students leave school for financial reasons and knew one day I wanted to help a student who has the desire to seek higher education but may not have the resources.”
Davis has found multiple ways to do just that. In his first year at Alabama, Davis served certain populations of new students by creating programs such as the Transfer Student Association and Tau Sigma Transfer Student Honor Society, while reaching out to first-year students to assist in their transition. He also saw a need for first-generation college students and started a program to help them become engaged in their college community.
Now, in his third year at the Capstone, Davis helps students of the foster care system receive the support and resources they need to be successful college students.
“Our foster care students need extra support in navigating campus or sometimes just a person to call when they have a problem,” said Davis. The foster care initiative began when Davis was introduced to a foster care student who had come to UA without having any plans in place.
“(The student) didn’t have housing, classes or any contacts on campus,” explained Davis. “I wondered how many other students identified as foster care students and were in this same situation.”
In collaboration with Student Financial Aid, 200 students were identified as being foster care students. Davis reached out to this group of students with resources such as financial planning and set up faculty and staff mentors for each student in the program.
In addition, a partnership with the College of Human and Environmental Sciences and the School of Social Work allows for further assistance.
Sean Hudson, a sophomore from Bessemer who grew up in the foster care system, has benefited from the support: “It has helped me in knowing the right people I can go to when I have a problem. Instead of trying to explain my situation to someone who either does not understand or does not have the correct information, they are familiar with my situation.”
Davis also helps mentor students in Collegiate 100 and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. on campus. He reaches out to the community by mentoring at Westlawn Middle School in Tuscaloosa. His helping attitude reaches far beyond the boundaries of his job: “Someone helped me and I feel it is my calling to help someone else in return.” Above anything, Davis loves seeing students meet their full potential. “I want to ensure every student who comes to UA receives the support they need to graduate in four years and either continue on to graduate school or become fully employed in a career they love as much as I do.”
Hudson and other UA students have noticed his helping nature. “The fact that Dr. Davis has teamed up with me, a current foster care student, has been the most helpful support; he knows the challenges we have and works diligently to solve them.”
“Someone helped me and I feel it is my calling to help someone else in return.” Dr. Lowell Davis, Assistant Dean of Students
A select group of high school students who are living in foster care have received the opportunity to participate in a college workshop at UA through the Nsoro Foundation’s Precollegiate Summer Program June 19-23.
Some 30 sophomores and juniors were selected to attend a series of college preparation workshops and other activities on campus.
“UA is currently the only higher education institution in Alabama addressing the needs of students in foster care with this kind of program,” said Dr. Lowell Davis, assistant dean of students and assistant to the vice provost for academic affairs.
As part of UA’s Foster Child Initiative, a partnership of several campus areas, Davis works directly with UA students who are or were in foster care, wards of the state or now emancipated.
With the help of UA faculty, staff and volunteers, the high school students will learn about the college experience and will be provided with personal, financial and educational support.
“We want to let high school students know that this opportunity is available to them, and to also let current UA students who are in foster care know that we are here to support them as well,” Davis said.
The initiative receives support from the Nsoro Foundation, which has the mission of cultivating a “circle of support” that nurtures and inspires emancipated foster care young adults to attend college.
According to the Foundation, on average, only 2 percent of foster care young adults obtain a bachelor’s degree. The Nsoro Foundation provides academic and practical support to increase the opportunity for foster care students to pursue a post-secondary degree or trade school certificate.
For more information on the Foster Child Initiative or how to be a mentor, contact Davis at 348-3326, or firstname.lastname@example.org.