Foster youth to get summer work experience, taste of college life at WSU

July 3, 2013

The Wayne State University School of Social Work this month is teaming up with the College of Education and the Merrill Palmer Skillman Children’s Institute to give youth aging out of the foster care system critical work experience as they transition to independence.

Under the federal Workforce Investment Act Year-Round Youth Program administered by the Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation, 20 youth ages 16 through 24 will be employed on Wayne State’s campus from July 8-Aug. 18 as research, administrative or human services assistants, each assigned to one of the three university partners. Working 20-hours a week for $7.50 an hour, youth participants will be mentored and supervised by faculty and staff, gain valuable job skills and references, and hopefully set their sights on a college career.

The six-week program is administered by Youth Employment Solutions, a contractor of the Detroit-based Youth Development Commission, and Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation. Angelique Day, assistant professor in the school of social work and WSU liaison to the employment initiative, said the program helps put foster youth on a level playing field.

“So many foster youth have little to no job experience when they transition from high school to college. Summer youth employment opportunities offer them the experience they need to compete with other college students vying for on-campus employment,” Day said.

The program is also intended to give foster youth a taste of college life and a glimpse at their potential.

“We want these young people to see themselves as college students,” Day said, adding that most foster youth have suffered significant disruptions to their education and “don’t see themselves as worthy of being on a college campus.”

The 20 youth participants will include recent high school graduates, community college students, and WSU students who are members of Transition to Independence (TIP), a Wayne State University-based foster youth student retention program that is funded through a contract from the Michigan Department of Human Services and administered by the School of Social Work. TIP, which in May was featured in a publication of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, partners with Metro Detroit-area organizations to provide students aging out of the foster care system with a range of free support, including professional mentoring, legal representation, financial literacy training and counseling.

Day, who is director of TIP, said employing TIP participants helps them feel supported during the summer months and ensures a continuity of care throughout the year.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering more than 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 29,000 students.