Piloting the program is Mikayla Slaydon ’22, a junior child professional services major from San Augustine, Texas. Slaydon said SIL provides her with practical information, such as connecting her with the right contacts at the Office of Scholarships & Financial Aid, informing her about academic requirements and helping map out her future.
“Being the first and only student to be part of this program’s inaugural semester has been an honor and a great blessing,” she said. “SIL has helped me make a personalized plan for my college career.”
Statistically, only about half of those in foster care finish high school, and less than 3% graduate from a four-year college. However, growing up, Slaydon did not care about the statistics regarding her situation—she was determined to go to college.
As a teenager, Slaydon was placed in the foster care system after escaping a less than desirable home. Fortunately, her first foster home provided her with the environment she needed to succeed. After graduating high school, Slaydon was excited to start her journey as a first-generation college student. But as a former foster youth, she lacked the usual built-in family support to help her navigate how to succeed in higher education, which is where the SIL program came in.
“This program has given me support in all areas of my life, whether it’s educational support or family support,” Slaydon said. “I definitely feel like the program is accomplishing the goals it set out.”
ESTABLISHING A HOME ON CAMPUS
In attending college, many foster care alumni struggle with housing, food and other everyday costs, and sometimes working part-time or full-time jobs along with taking full class loads. The SIL program provides participants with a daily rate that helps pay for on-campus housing and dining, as well as personal costs such as phone bills, hygiene products and other expenses. To meet eligibility requirements, individuals must voluntarily opt back into the Texas foster care system, be enrolled as full-time students, live on campus year-round and meet weekly with the Foster Care Liaison.
For Slaydon, the SIL program provided more than just help with solving individual problems—it made Texas A&M feel like home. To Slaydon, this home has provided her the opportunity to be a Fish Camp counselor and serve as a counselor for Aggie Fish Club on the Committee of Internal Affairs.
“I am a more well-rounded student because of the skills I have acquired through SIL,” she said. “The program has also given me a community of people that I can reach out to for help as I complete my studies.”