Fostering Powerful Change
The Great Expectations Program was launched at VHCC in Fall 2008 and, since then, has continued to expand to other community colleges across the commonwealth. The goal of the program is to make a community college education available and easily accessible for all foster youth in Virginia.
Great Expectations helps the region’s foster youth complete high school, gain access to a community college education and transition successfully from the foster care system to living independently. The program helps ensure that young people have the personal connections and community support they need to live productive and fulfilling lives. Key components include:
- Individualized tutoring
- Help applying for college admission and financial aid
- Career exploration and coaching
- Help applying for and keeping a job
- Life skills training, including managing finances
- Personalized counseling
- Student mentors
How the VHCC Great Expectations Program and DePaul Community Resources Changed Her Life
Mandy Lane knew the odds were against her when she enrolled at Virginia Highlands Community College. As a foster care student, she knew that her chances of earning a college degree were less than 2 percent. According to statistics, she was far more likely to end up homeless or in jail than to earn a degree.
But rather than get discouraged, Mandy sought help through VHCC’s Great Expectations Program. The one-on-one help she received through this program helped her stay motivated, she said, right up until graduation day. “What really helped me the most was just having someone to tell me that I could do it,” she said. “That was reassuring to me. It made me want to work harder and do my best at everything.”
Mandy entered foster care at the age of 15. She changed homes and high schools frequently, certain that college wasn’t a realistic option for her. Then she took a dual enrollment course in criminal justice at Abingdon High School and discovered her true passion in life. In May 2011, Mandy graduated from VHCC with an Associate’s Degree in Police Science. She is now pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice from Old Dominion University and working as a detention specialist at Highlands Juvenile Detention Center in Bristol. She and her husband, David, recently purchased their first home.
Mandy’s determination and positive attitude have been key factors in her success, but she is quick to share credit with those she met through the Great Expectations Program. She formed close friendships with other foster care students enrolled in the program, she said, and had the opportunity to participate in cultural activities that helped broaden her outlook on life.
“Great Expectations made a huge difference for me,” she said. “The people I met and the encouragement I received were a big help, and I know the program is continuing to help lots of other foster care students.”