SPARK Program

SPARK Program

The purpose of SPARK is to increase the number of former foster youth who graduate from The University of Texas at Austin. SPARK is a new program located at the

SparkyouthTexas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing within the School of Social Work.  In partnership with Horns Helping Horns, SPARK will create a campus-wide network of support to assist students who grew up in the foster care system achieve educational success and graduation.

Mentors and Advocates provide support to foster care alumni in a variety of ways. Mentors promote positive relationships and connection, as well as advocacy and support.  Mentors will receive specific training on the needs and strengths of foster care alumni. Advocates will be Social Work interns who partner with DOS to provide support and engage students and mentors. They also help manage the mentor/mentee relationships. If you would like to request a mentor, please contact Esmer Bedia at You can reach an Advocate by emailing Shannon Mann-Butler at

We are developing summer programming for current foster youth that brings them on campus to take college courses and/or learn about how to succeed in college. Once youth have been accepted to UT, the program will provide campus support through case management, weekly informal gatherings, support during school breaks and academic advising and tutoring as needed.  Former foster youth at UT will also be linked to multiple mentors to assist with professional development and career exploration.

An additional component of SPARK is fostering leadership skills for current foster youth. Through a partnership with the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), SPARK works closely with DFPS youth specialists. The Youth Specialists provides youth voice on various committees and programs addressing the needs of foster youth. Most importantly, the Youth Specialist organizes the Youth Leadership Council for each region (Central Texas is Region 7).  The Council is a group of current foster youth who provide insight and recommendations to DFPS, the legislature and other entities.

SPARK is a new program that is just getting up and running. Please let us know if you have any questions or would like to support our programming.

Current Foster Youth:

If you are interested in UT make sure
that you fill out the contact form!
We would love to talk to you!

Foster Youth Alums:

If you are former foster youth at UT,
please check out our page for current students
and contact us for more information!

Both current and former youth,
should check out and like our
Facebook page to keep up with events!

Shannon Mann-Butler, Senior Operations & Development Coordinator