Spark UT Teen Conference 2017 was a success!
The last week of July TXICFW and SPARK partnered with DFPS Pal Services and Foster Angels of Central Texas to host the 2nd Annual Spark UT Teen Conference for a group of 30 students currently in foster care. Last year was a full day whirlwind campus tour and workshops, but this year was really special – and was the first year offering an overnight stay on campus. Conference attendees got a glimpse of life in the Jester dorms, eating in the campus cafe, and even bowling at the Union Underground. The students were able to familiarize themselves even more with the UT Campus through campus tours, and a scavenger hunt, but a highlight of the event for most attendees was touring the football stadium. The students really enjoyed being able to walk out onto the field at Darrel k Royal Stadium. “I think it helped them see UT as a welcoming community they can become a part of and achieve their goals.” says Shannon Mann-Butler, TXICFW Senior Operations & Development Coordinator. “The idea behind this event is to encourage youth to start thinking about their future, and give them a unique opportunity to experience life as a UT student.” As the Spark Program Coordinator, Shannon facilitated and planned the conferences to bring youth to campus for a fun and educational event. “Spark is all about empowering former foster youth to attend college, and providing them the resources and support they need to succeed while they are in school at UT.”
PAL (Preparation for Adult Living) Coordinators at Child Protective Services are very busy throughout the summer offering opportunities for youth to attend Teen Conferences at a variety of Universities and College in Texas. Adrienne Payne, a Region 7 Coordinator, and UT Alum, has advocated to include the University of Texas on the schedule for many years and was excited to work with Shannon to make their dreams become a reality over the last two years. “The overnight this year was so special to the youth that were able to attend, it’s encouraging them to think about their futures” says Adrienne. In addition to the College Tours, Teen Conferences and activities throughout the year PAL coordinators are regularly engaged with their youth to talk about independent living skills, offer support services and help the youth prepare for their next steps into adulthood. TXICFW is fully committed to partnering with PAL to encourage and support former foster youth to achieve their goals as they transition out of the Foster Care System and take those steps.
Negative outcomes of former foster youth are well documented and education can start to change that. The conference also included workshops to provide practical education and lessons like – “Stress management,” “Financial Planning for College & Money Management,” “Overcoming Fear and Rejection,” and “Getting and Keeping a Job.” TXICFW partnered with Dean of Students, Counseling and Mental Health, Housing and Food, Admissions, Financial Aid, Undergraduate Studies, the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and student groups to make this the most successful event possible.
Spark is gearing up for the 2017-18 school year and is currently providing College Success Kits to former foster youth currently enrolled at UT! Spark Students will be moving into the dorms in less than two weeks. Last month we asked you to donate items to the Spark College Success Target Registry to help students start the school year successfully. We are so close to our goal, and over $1100 in registry items have already been purchased! We are just under $1,000 to reaching our goal. Please consider giving and share this opportunity widely with your networks! We have extended the drop off to Monday August 14th. Learn more here.
This event is made possible by: