Fostering Success Michigan is a statewide initiative that aims to increase access and success in higher education for students with experience in foster care. Fostering Success Michigan is a program of Educate Tomorrow.
Fostering Success Michigan (FSM) was established in 2012 at Western Michigan University as a collaboration of campuses, agencies, and professionals who were interested in figuring out the best ways to support students with experience in foster care in college. With generous support from The Kresge Foundation, the Havirmill Foundation, and others, a statewide collective impact initiative was launched to increase postsecondary access and success for students with experience in foster care by building a statewide network of support across college campuses and within local communities.
In 2018, FSM transitioned from Western Michigan University to The New Foster Care, an organization committed to accomplishing change through servicing at-risk families, supporting fostering and adoptive families, and strengthening youth who are transitioning out of foster care with future opportunities. The New Foster Care provided a bridge for FSM to continue programming, while working to identify a permanent home that would ensure long-term sustainability and an opportunity to scale nationally. In 2021, The New Foster Care provided funding for FSM to transition to Educate Tomorrow.
Fostering Success Michigan is a program of Educate Tomorrow, a national organization focused on postsecondary access and success for youth with experience in foster care and homelessness.
Educate Tomorrow began almost 20 years ago when its founders discovered students from foster care could receive free college tuition in Florida. Eight students at the time were using this little-known tuition exemption. Educate Tomorrow spread the word and prepared and enrolled students for postsecondary success, providing much needed support all along the way.
As the organization grew, it provided financial resources to fund on-campus coaches dedicated to this student population at Miami Dade College and Florida International University. Since the initial investments in 2014, these two institutions have conferred more than 600 degrees to students utilizing the tuition waiver.
As the number of students accessing tuition exemptions grew from tens to hundreds to thousands, Educate Tomorrow was awarded a contract in 2016 by the State of Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) to lead the statewide network, the Positive Pathways Program, that supports over 6,700 students from foster care at all Florida public state colleges and universities.
In addition to Florida and Michigan, Educate Tomorrow is also actively developing networks in Colorado, Arizona, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Fostering Success Michigan will increase access and success in postsecondary education among Michigan's students with experience in foster care through the building of a holistic network that insulates (i.e., strengthens protective factors and reduces risks) the education to career “pipeline” for students from foster care. The Fostering Success Michigan Network participants include: students with experience in foster care, higher education professionals, child welfare professionals, community organizations, supportive adults, philanthropic support, and the business community.
Fostering Success Michigan is utilizing a Collective Impact Framework to address Michigan's need for large-scale social change in the area of students with experience in foster care and their access and success in higher education and post-college careers. The Collective Impact Framework employs five distinct conditions for social change: Backbone Organization, Common Agenda, Mutually Reinforcing Activities, Shared Measurement, and Continuous Communication.
As a collective impact backbone organization, Fostering Success Michigan employs three strategies: Resourcing, Supporting, and Networking. These strategies address the knowledge, skill and social capacity gaps that must be filled to create a sustainable education to career pipeline for students with experience in foster care. Fostering Success Michigan is a hub, supporting Michigan’s network of experts versus being an “expert organization”. Bringing together the combined energy and efforts from partners across the State of Michigan allows Fostering Success Michigan to identify areas where resources are lacking and collaborate with partners to fill these gaps.
Fostering Success Michigan has aligned with the Michigan College Access Network in support of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's statewide postsecondary attainment goal, which is that 60% of Michigan residents complete a postsecondary certificate or degree by the year 2030. Until the governor's announcement, Michigan was the only state in the Midwest and one of nine in the country that did not have an established postsecondary attainment goal at the state level. FSM is proud to align with the new vision, which will help create more paths for youth with experience in foster care to earn postsecondary certificates and degrees, and address a growing talent shortage in Michigan's workforce.
Each partner in the Fostering Success Michigan Network plays a vital role in the education to career pipeline for youth and alumni of foster care. As a partner in the Fostering Success Michigan Collective Impact strategy, participants agree to work collaboratively and share best practices, knowing that the best solution in one community may need adaptation for success in another community, or may not fit at all.
A shared measurement strategy is being established through the collaborative efforts of the Fostering Success Michigan Higher Education Consortium (FSM HEC). Fostering Success Michigan collects data on the numbers of students served by and graduating from campus-based support programs in Michigan to monitor progress of success and provide a realistic understanding of how Michigan’s students with experience in foster care move to and through postsecondary education and into professional careers.
To ensure that our diverse group of partners maintains an awareness of successes, challenges, priority issues and shared solutions, FSM supports continuous communication through a variety of networking activities. These include FSM Quarterly Newsletters, FSM Podcast Series, FSM YouTube Channel, FSM Student Spotlights, and in-person networking opportunities. “Like” FSM on Facebook and “Follow” @FSMichigan on Twitter for up the minute info about child welfare and higher education.
Karie Ward serves as the Executive Director of Fostering Success Michigan, a statewide collective impact initiative that began in 2012 and focuses on postsecondary access and success for youth with experience in foster care. Karie works to support the network of campuses, community partners, youth, and statewide agencies that make up the education to career pipeline for students in Michigan.
She began working for FSM as an Intern and Graduate Assistant while attending WMU’s School of Social Work, graduating with an MSW in 2014. Karie has held many roles at FSM and has produced over 70 webinars, 32 podcasts, and facilitated 15 statewide network events. Additionally, she has led the FSM Network through two organizational transitions to ensure long term sustainability for the initiative.
Brett became the CEO of Educate Tomorrow in 2012. Educate Tomorrow has received awards for partnership, leadership and innovation from the Florida Department of Children and Families, Miami Today Best of Miami Educators in Crisis Time, Florida International University, Miami Dade College, Voices for Children, Switchboard Miami, The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, American Red Cross Women’s Spectrum awards and College Board. Brett is an alumni of the National Urban Fellows Executive Leadership Program and the Miami Foundation Miami Leaders program where he attended the FIU High Potential Leader Program. Before Educate Tomorrow Brett was an officer of buildOn where he led their International programs from 2005-2012 overseeing the construction of over 1,000 classrooms for more than 40,000 children a day in rural Haiti, Nicaragua, Senegal, Mali, Malawi, Niger, Nepal and India. Brett served as a United States Peace Corps volunteer in Niger, West Africa from 2001-2003. Brett has a M.S.Ed in Community and Social Change from the University of Miami. He is currently a board member of Hope for Haiti. He is co-chair of the Education and Employment committee for Helping Our Miami Youth (HOMY).
Dr. Steve J. Rios, a long-time mentor and consultant with Educate Tomorrow, he serves as the Senior Director of Positive Pathways, a contract with the Florida Department of Children and Families. Dr. Rios helps to support a network of campus and community based advocates for young adults coming from the foster care system striving to obtain a post-secondary credential. Dr. Rios holds a doctorate in Adult Education and Human Resource Development from Florida International University and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Florida Atlantic University. Along with his wife Nohemi, Dr. Rios owns Rios Research & Evaluation, which provides data analysis for charter schools and Broward County Public Schools programs.
Tony Parsons, has built a career working on behalf of children, youth, and families across multiple systems. Tony began as an intern with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute where he produced a policy report with recommendations for increasing permanency for foster youth. After graduating from Michigan State University, he worked in the education. As an academic advisor for educationally gifted students in a low income community, he drafted curriculum, elevated student voice in the decision making process, and convened stakeholders to improve educational outcomes. He also worked in a systems level change capacity with the Michigan College Access Network, helping low income, first generation, and/or students of color realize their potential of accessing higher education.
Currently, Tony manages a diverse youth policy portfolio including the Family First Prevention Services Act, Medicaid, education, and juvenile justice among others for Youth Villages. Youth Villages is national leader in children’s mental and behavioral health committed to building strong families, delivering effective services and significantly improving outcomes for children, families and young people involved in child welfare and juvenile justice systems across the country. Additionally, Tony serves as a Young Adult Consultant for the Capacity Building Center for States. Outside of his professional endeavors, Tony enjoys musical theatre, body building, and cooking.
Michael D. Davis Thomas is an activist, mentor, public speaker and policy scholar who aims to run for office—and ultimately for President. He currently works for River Jordan, a nonprofit focused on providing transitional housing and support for youth with experience in foster care.
Michael serves on over 14 Boards that focus on enacting change and reform in the child welfare system including the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Child Welfare Advisory Board, the State of Michigan Child Protective Reform Committee, and the Whaley Children’s Center Youth Advisory Board.
Michael holds leadership positions in the Michigan Chapter for the National Fostering Youth Institute and Michigan Opportunities Initiative.
He is currently attending Mott Community College, studying political science and public administration. He aims to further his education at the University of Michigan Flint.
Gabriella has served as an FSM Ambassador for three years and has served on student panels, cofacilitated presentations, and spoken as a keynote at local events. She is also the author of “Inspirational Quick Speak,” an encouraging and energizing blog that can be found on the FSM Stories page!
Gabriella is currently pursuing her degree in Social Work at Wayne State University and participates in the CHAMPS Program. Gabriella describes herself as an African American young woman pursing her goals and aspirations with continuous perseverance, hope, trust, love and faith within herself. Gabriella is a leader, innovator, advocate and proud to be an FSM Ambassador Advocate!
Brina Williams is a senior at Western Michigan University, pursuing her Bachelor’s in Social Work with a minor in Political Science. She is currently a Seita Scholar at WMU and is an alumnus of Fostering Stars at Lansing Community College. She is a member of the honor societies Tau Sigma and Phi Alpha, as well as an alumni of the honor society Phi Theta Kappa. Brina is also a graduate of Lansing Community College with an Associate degree in General Studies. After graduating with her BSW, Brina plans to pursue an Advanced Standing MSW program.
Brina is the President of Ingham County’s Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative and is a part of the Continuous Quality Improvement Focus Group for Foster Care in Ingham County. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Association of Children’s Mental Health for almost three years, is a member of Michigan’s Statewide Youth Advisory Board for foster care and is a member of the Leadership Corp for the National Foster Youth Institute Michigan Chapter.
In her downtime, Brina enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and her dog, Samson. She enjoys being active and being outside, going for long bike rides every chance she gets. Brina enjoys painting and writing poetry; she’s had art in many of the National Association of Mental Illness Lansing’s fundraisers. She would like to one day publish some of her poetry, along with a memoir of her life.
Brina is passionate about using her experiences to create much needed change within the foster care system. “I’d like to work with foster care children,” she said, “because that is what I know.” Brina Williams for Bridge Magazine.
Brina is currently completing her BSW internship at Fostering Success Michigan and has served as an FSM Ambassador for almost three years.
Sarah Trujillo-Altvater is no stranger to adversity. As a first-generation graduate, she has overcome many hardships in pursuit of her education.
As a non-traditional, thirty-year-old student, Sarah completed her Bachelor of Social Work at Spring Arbor University. She graduated while her spouse was deployed, raising her three children, and single handedly managing a household.
She offers a unique perspective of being a full-time student and full-time parent; and has proven that it’s never too late to pursue your education.
Sarah is passionate about building meaningful relationships with others. She understands the challenges of being born into a broken home and has chosen a different path for herself. As a cycle breaker in her own family, she wants to empower others to find their calling and pursue it wholeheartedly. She says, “I want to serve others in humility and learn from their experiences. I believe that building relationships and finding humanity in every situation is the only way to successfully advocate for change.”
In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family, going on nature walks, and dancing. She especially enjoys her ability to embarrass her children with her cool dance moves.
Sarah is currently pursuing her Master of Social Work at Spring Arbor University and will graduate in January 2023. She is a member of the Phi Alpha Society and the National Association of Social Workers. She is grateful for the opportunity to intern at Fostering Success Michigan and is eager to advocate on behalf of youth with foster care experience.
Brea Buchan is a junior at Grand Valley State University, pursuing her Bachelor’s in Social Work. Brea aspires to work in the foster care system to make a difference in the lives of at-risk children, and break the cycle of abuse and neglect in their lives. She is currently a Fostering Success Michigan Changemaker at GVSU through Educate Tomorrow.
Brea has conquered several obstacles along the way including being a ward of the state, having experience in foster care, and having been adopted. Those obstacles did not stop her from achieving many of her goals and dreams.
To Brea’s knowledge she is the first in her biological family to attend college. When she is not at school she is a full time server at Northside Pub in North Muskegon during the fall and winter and The Gate House on Mackinac Island during the summer.
Brea believes hard work and dedication is the key to success and in helping her to achieve her goals. In her free time, Brea enjoys spending time with her family, camping, traveling, and experiencing new cultures.
Jordi Nsiaka is a Changemaker with Fostering Success Michigan, an organization that helps adolescents who have experienced foster care succeed in college and make a positive difference in their lives. As someone who has been in foster care, Jordi values passing on his success tactics to those who need them the most. “People helped me become who I am, and I’m prepared to do the same for people who need my aid,” he constantly says.
Jordi graduated from Plainwell High School in 2019, but he did not stop there. Since then he has attended Grand Rapid Community College for two years, and is currently a junior at Grand Valley State University. Jordi is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and came to the United States 5 years ago. As he puts it, he went to the United States not knowing any English, but what brought him here to learn is not only because he knew he had to, but because he believes that trying to succeed is calling yourself victorious ahead of time. Jordi aims to support adults who have experienced foster care to succeed in college and create transforming relationships with each of them.
Tyler “Mack” MacAvoy is a non-traditional engineering student at Grand Valley State University. He decided to take advantage of higher education programs while he was experiencing housing instability and homelessness, and he is thrilled to share his discovery and knowledge of these resources with other GVSU students who have similar experiences through the Changemaker program with Fostering Success Michigan. In addition to full-time studenthood and being a Changemaker, Mack also tutors K-12 students across the state of Michigan, and spends his evenings working part-time in a warehouse.
In his free time, Mack enjoys sitting down, petting his cats, listening to music, and playing his banjo (usually not simultaneously).
He aims to complete his bachelor’s degree in 2025, and intends to use his extensive experiences in housing instability and homelessness to promote awareness and change for students who follow.
Terry Almame moved to the United States from Algeria through a refugee youth program led by Bethany Christian Service in 2017. From 2017 to 2019, he attended Wyoming High School (Go Wolves) until he graduated. Currently, Terry is attending Aquinas College, pursuing a degree in Political Science and a minor in Legal Studies. He aims to further his education at one of Michigan’s law schools. Terry is working with the Fostering Success Michigan program, a statewide initiative under Educate Tomorrow that focuses on postsecondary access and success for youth with experience in foster care and homelessness in Michigan. As a Changemaker, Terry supports his peers at Aquinas College to help them successfully complete their college journey.
While at Wyoming High School, Terry was part of the leadership committee Alpha Wolf 11 and was their Champion of Character that promoted students to be kind, compassionate, and gracious to their community. Terry is currently one of Aquinas College’s Multicultural Club board members in which he serves as an events promoter.
Terry is passionate about using his personal experiences and stories to promote social justice and equal opportunity within foster care and refugee programs. Terry believes education is the most potent weapon to promote equal opportunity and social justice for all.
Terry is passionate about sports, especially football (Soccer); he was part of the Wyoming High School Varsity soccer team until graduation, and he’s currently part of the Aquinas College men’s soccer team. Terry enjoys playing soccer with his friends and believes that life is like soccer. You need goals to be successful.
My name is Khaled, I am from Bangladesh where I grew up with a different ethnicity and a lovely family. I still remember waking up in the morning and I asked my mom where is my tea with the big cup, and I don’t drink tea if it is not in the big cup, which I am trying to say when I was young I always wanted more than others. As I am growing up, sometimes people ask me what do you want to be when I grow up? Then I etched my forehead and started thinking but my answer always came out as “I don’t know”. Because I was young and I didn’t think about the future yet. So after I turned sixteen my life was about to change.
I decided to move to the United States and there were a few reasons for moving to the United States, one of the reasons is to earn a better education. Because the United States has good education, I can get a better degree and get a better job in the future. And when I was moving to the United States, I learned so many things, I experienced a lot of stuff. I learned about different types of people, I learned about different cultures, I learned multiple languages, I have experienced that group of Gangs came and one guy pointed a gun at me and took my money, my phone, and my backpack left me in with nothing I had no money no phone and no food but still I was able to get out from this situation. That was the most challenging thing I ever experienced.
After a long and most challenging journey then finally I came to the US but that was more challenging for me. I don’t speak English, I have no family, no friends and I felt lost and alone. But my attorney sent me to foster care, then I slowly learned to speak English, I learned more about myself and became more productive and mature.
“I have experienced so many things in my life and one thing I realized is that every problem has a solution. Maybe it would be difficult but I always have hope.”
Fostering Success Michigan is a program of Educate Tomorrow that aims to increase access and success in higher education and post-college careers for youth with experience in foster care. Learn how you can contribute to building a holistic network that insulates (i.e., strengthens protective factors and reduces risks) the education to career "pipeline."Make a Donation