U-M graduate Cherish Thomas lived in 20 different foster homes before attending the University of Michigan. By the time she was 17, she had lived in more than half a dozen states and had even been homeless, living on a playground, begging for food from strangers.
She was finally adopted and moved to Michigan where she first began to dream of going to college.
"I remember a question on the University of Michigan application that asked what my contribution would be to the University. I wanted to prove that I have what it takes to be a success and reach for my dreams," recalls Thomas.
In 2006, Paul and Amy Blavin created a generous scholarship program for students like Thomas, which has been very successful in bringing foster kids to campus. The resources provided to students in this program far surpass the tuition payments provided by the scholarship and include every kind of non-monetary support that any college student would normally receive from his or her parents.
So deep is the Blavins’ commitment that the couple is now pledging to match $500,000 in contributions to fund the Blavin Scholars Program to ensure the success of these foster care students at Michigan, this is in addition to the Blavin Scholarship they already provide. The dollar-for-dollar match would create $1 million in endowment for the program providing the Student Life with sustained, annual funding for this program.
While scholarship support is essential to providing Blavin Scholars like Cherish Thomas with access to a Michigan education, it is not enough to ensure that they will thrive at the University. University of Michigan students who have aged out of the foster care system arrive on campus lacking the family and community support that most undergraduates enjoy and are in need of guidance and understanding from dedicated university staff members.
Together with the Student Life, the Blavins created the Blavin Scholars Program to build that sense of community and to provide essential support as former foster care recipients pursue their goal of earning a U-M degree. The Blavin Scholars Program provides many non-tangible, yet vital, components that make the difference between a student who is able to make successful use of a four-year scholarship and one who might not.
"Foster care children always feel ashamed, like being part of the system is their fault. It makes it hard to connect to anyone," Thomas says.
Gifts of any and every amount will be matched. Those who donate will have wonderful opportunity to help children from the state of Michigan's foster care system achieve what many parents want for all of our children: a college education. To influence an important life outcome for a former foster care young person in the state of Michigan, make your gift of any size by contacting Alicia Marting, director of development for the Student Life, at 734-615-5159 or firstname.lastname@example.org.