This summer saw horrific fires destroy forests, homes - and dreams throughout the country. The Waldo Canyon fire here in Colorado Springs claimed more than 350 middle to upper class homes in a matter of a few short hours. As we drove through the neighborhood where we used to live the loss of homes and dreams left us speechless. Some of those homes housed foster kids who are seeking to turn their lives around and achieve their potential. The flames also caused us to stop and reflect on what the children - foster or not - lost in those frightening moments.
One of the realities that hit us in the aftermath is that children lost books which represented precious memories and vital learning tools. Most foster kids don't have a collection of books and are lacking that critical link to learning. To that end we are focusing our efforts on two 'recovery' ideas about which we hope to be able to share more details very soon.
First, we plan to begin the process of replacing those books which children have lost through any tragedy. The idea is receiving strong indications of interest from corporate and community groups and we plan to open it for active participation by the end of September.
Second, realizing that foster kids need to read more, we are going to make a concerted effort to create personal 'libraries' for them which they can keep with them for life.
It is our hope that others will share this dream and keep this idea 'burning' in their minds and hearts.
Ann Marie broke down and cried (for the first time since joining the START team) as she relayed the forms of abuse she had been a victim of as a foster kid. And now her former boyfriend had taken his own life, leaving behind a note more or less laying part of the blame on Ann Marie. One of the many stories we hear every year about kids not able to achieve their potential in school because of the 'home' life they live with every day. But most of them, like Ann Marie, are determined to cling to the hope which the Academic Coaching Teams provide through support and instruction.
As we prepare to transition to an electronic media approach for our teams, one of the major questions posed by our academic coaches is, "How can we maintain the level of personal relationships via an electronic link?" One of the possible solutions for the lack of personal touch will come through the CPA's (Child Placement Agencies) as case managers will be trained to come along side of the students to provide a reliable source of support in each student's enviornment.
However, we realize the need to generate our own network of 'local' mentors who can augment our internet based teams. As we recruit and train these individuals, they must be carefully screened and monitored to insure the safety of the students and the integrity of the Academic Fitness Network (AFN). During the next few months S2A will identify target markets where we expect our early teams to be centered and pursue individuals who desire to serve as 'Specialty Coaches'.
The need for AFN is stronger than ever as we continue to see a rise in high school students who are failing multiple classes. Moving forward with the expansion of AFN via the internet will allow us to make sure that foster students maximize their education opportunities.
We continue to appreciate your support and welcome and inquiries as we move ahead to new frontiers.
With the new year approaching and needs for academic intervention growing, Academic Fitness Network is actively shifting into an awareness role for guardian ad litems. Especially true for foster kids, academic fitness which leads to long term turnarounds simply does not happen without significant and long term relationships between the students and the academic coaches.
Kathleen never even knew what it meant to set goals beyond the coming weekend because virtually her entire life had been dictated by a system which did not demonstrate a passion for her future. Now, as a mother of two, she is finally understanding the need to look beyond tomorrow and her own narcissistic view of life. We are proud of the fact that she has chosen to stay 'connected' to Start 2 Achieve and is showing increased passion for reaching her potential - academically and personally.
As our internet based academic fitness teams continue to take shape, we see a bright future for connecting with the Kathleens of today and tomorrow regardless of their life changes - geographically or emotionally. Our initial debut with seven students - ages 14-19 - has proven that we can connect with at-risk students in significant ways and keep them in the circle of 'achievement' beyond the 4-6 week programs which most school districts set in place without true long term measurements.
We are very encouraged by the number and quality of individuals who have shown an interest in being trained to serve as academic coaches for our community based and/or our internet based offerings. By drawing more Guardian ad Litems into the process we are confident the future looks brighter for struggling Foster Kids.
Terry sends a deep word of appreciation from Arkansas for the opportunity to 'connect' with other kids who face the same challenges he has had to deal with. He knew at age 14 when and how he was going to "kiss the *$%#! school scene goodbye" and join his friends in a life headed - nowhere. Terry will be a junior next year and he is looking at the possibilities for employment as a trained machinist.