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.
As we begin to assemble our beta group for online 'virtual' academic team building, we are reminded of how so many foster kids feel as they face the challenge of academia without the encouragement of parents and teachers in so many cases. You see, they have heard so many times about their failures that they have a difficult time setting goals - and believing in themselves. In most cases the foster parents care far more than the kids 'feel', but the kids live every day with scars from abandonment, abuse or, at best, apathetic support from their biological parents.
The idea of being part of a team where potential becomes a lifestyle rather than a dream is difficult for many of these kids in any endeavor, but especially in academic achievement. Start 2 Achieve, through our Academic Fitness Network, raises the bar and the results. This past school year we saw a small cadre of foster kids in Colorado and Iowa hold out their hand and accept their diplomas on their road to a more challenging and rewarding future.
TBC (We are awaiting permission to share a couple of their success stories).
What do Foster Kids want from their education experience? The same thing we all long for - in education, work, home and play. They want Meaningful relationships which help encourage them to reach their fullest potential.
Because of his size, Aaron Rodgers was not offered a football scholarship to any college following high school graduation. But he continued to believe in himself and was 'discovered' by California after one year of junior college success. Most foster kids understand the feeling of being overlooked - regardless of their potential academically.
The Academic Fitness Network (AFN) offers foster kids the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships which will see them through high school and beyond. Preliminary trials of our online network shows that even on the internet these students can create the kind of relationships they need to achieve their academic potential.
Start 2 Achieve is now in the final stages of committing to the delivery system which will open AFN doors that foster kids can take advantage of for years to come - even as they enter their chosen careers. One of the barriers we seek to overcome will be the availability of 'netbooks' or 'smart pads' for every student as the key to keeping the doors open. Most of the foster kids carry their 'possessions' around in a box or duffel bag as they are shuffled from agency to agency and home to home. These compact 'computers' will be easier for them to connect and keep with them as they follow their placements and still be a part of their AFN Team.
Even though we are based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, AFN will soon be able to reach students wherever they are and train workers/volunteers in the same locales. By June we should have our first online virtual group and will accept applicants from around the country. As former foster parents we know what this support migh also mean for the other foster parents and plan to expand the network to include them in their own AFN sub groups.
Thank you for your continued support and interest.
State by state education reform takes shape, but nothing of any consequence is being offered for Foster Kids. Now working with several judicial officials and agencies, our Academic Fitness Network (AFN) is gaining ground on bringing Academic Coaching to Foster Kids who lack the parental support and advocacy which is so essential for graduation and post secondary education.
As we create a 'virtual' meeting room online, we will be able to service Foster Kids wherever they live and have access to high speed internet. In cooperation with numerous agencies, AFN has revised our Academic Team curriculum to make certain it complies with laws which require that Foster Kids have a proven Independent Living Plan in place at and beyond age 16.
By summer 2011 we project at least 350 Foster Kids will be enrolled in our 'virtual' team meetings and well on their way to raising their academic achievement and graduating from high school on time.
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