Community College Chancellor Bicycling 700 Miles to Enhance College Opportunities for Foster Care Youth


Published: June 30, 2008

RICHMOND — Glenn DuBois, the chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges, is using his summer vacation to bicycle hundreds of miles to raise awareness of the plight of Virginia’s foster children. Dubois’ trip will stretch 700-miles from Winchester, south to Wytheville and then east through Hampton Roads. It’s expected to take two weeks.

DuBois’ ride will take him through seven of Virginia’s Community Colleges, several of which are participating in this coming year’s Great Expectation pilot program. You can follow his progress and learn more about the program and the challenges facing Virginia’s foster youth by visiting the website www.GreatExpectations.vccs.edu.

Bike ride stops include:

  • Lord Fairfax Community College, Middletown Campus
  • Wytheville Community College
  • Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville
  • Danville Community College
  • Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston
  • Southside Virginia Community College, Alberta Campus
  • Paul D. Camp Community College in Franklin
  • Tidewater Community College, Chesapeake Campus

“Virginia is, in many respects, in last place in the nation,” when it comes to serving its foster youth, said DuBois.  Slightly more than 8,100 children are in Virginia’s foster care system. And since 2000 the commonwealth has led the nation every year with the highest percentage of foster care youth who “age out” of the system without permanent family support.

Those who leave the system often struggle in their new independence. Information published by the Pew Charitable Trusts and Casey Family Programs indicates that Virginia’s foster care alumni are twice as likely to be homeless or incarcerated than they are to attend college.

Statistics also show that fewer than six out of ten children who are or have been in Virginia’s foster care system graduate high school. Less than three percent of them earn a college degree. “The way we’re going to help these young people is to help them pursue post-secondary education and get a college degree, or a certificate, that’s worth something in the marketplace,” DuBois said.

Great Expectations Dubois’ bike ride aims to promote the Great Expectations program, a new community college effort to help foster care youth pursue and complete a college program. The initiative is funded mostly through private funds and grants. It will start this year as a pilot program in five of the commonwealth’s 23 community colleges:
• Danville Community College;
• Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg,
• J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond;
• New River Community College in Dublin; and
• Southside Community College in Alberta.

The program also includes plans for an online resource center for foster care youth and families.

“I felt like I was alone in a world that doesn’t care.” Mea Molnar, 26 of Chesterfield, is cheering DuBois’ efforts. But the J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College graduate and former foster care youth said it will take more than what he can do alone to make a difference.

“More community leaders and more community groups need to get involved with this issue if anything’s going to change,” she said. Molnar was seven years old when she and her sister were removed from their mother. Over the next 11 years, she lived in three foster homes and at least eight group homes before running away at age 14. “Too many foster kids are under incredible emotional distress,” she said. “They blame themselves for what’s happening and they don’t have a support network to give them perspective. I felt like I was alone in a world that doesn’t care.”

Molnar, now married with two children, is pursuing a degree in at-risk youth advocacy at Virginia Commonwealth University. She says the planned online resource is overdue. “There’s already a lot of stuff out there, but foster care youth usually don’t know about it when they really need it,” she said.

Attention for foster youth called a “great thing.”

Great Expectations is also a partnership with “For Keeps,” an initiative of Virginia First Lady Anne Holton. A former juvenile court judge, Holton is making the welfare of at-risk youth, especially teenagers in foster care, the priority of her office.

“Community colleges are so well poised to help at-risk young people transition to adulthood so many different ways,” said Holton.

Regarding the chancellor’s promotional bike ride she said she doesn’t envy the task of riding so far in Virginia’s unforgiving summer heat, but “anything that draws attention to these young people and their situation and the need to help them is a good thing.”

About Virginia’s Community Colleges: Created more than 40 years ago, the VCCS is comprised of 23 community colleges located on 40 campuses across the commonwealth. Together, Virginia’s Community Colleges serve more than a quarter-million credit students each year. For more information, please visit myfuture.vccs.edu.



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