R Is For Thursday - Helping Foster Alumni Succeed In College

"It's unusual and perhaps unpredictable that they would end up on a college campus to begin with."Dr. Kerri Kearney is devoting her professional career to helping college students from foster care backgrounds succeed. She says only 2% of foster alumni attain college degrees.

One such student sitting in her OSU office, hoping to beat the odds, said something that stuck with her.

"She said well you know as a freshman I didn't know that a T and an R on the course schedule means Tuesday and Thursday, so I spent some time not attending my Thursday classes!"

That student had some advice for others following in her footsteps: realize that R is for Thursday.

"So it sort of became symbolic of what we're trying to do," Kearney said.

Launched in January of 2012, R Is For Thursday is now Dr. Kearney's statewide collaboration to help foster alumni navigate the higher education maze. One of the goals - to provide an advocate on every Oklahoma campus to help mentor students.

Dr. Myron Pope is the advocate on the UCO campus. "So many of these kids have been moved around so much they don't have a connection," he said. "They haven't been encouraged, they hear negativity through all of those transitions. So what we want to do is provide the support."Brad Williams, Vice-President for Student Services, is the advocate on the OSU-OKC campus.

"There's a number of students who have my personal cell phone number just as a life-line," he said.

Dr. Kearney estimates about 1,100 students from Oklahoma's foster care system are enrolled in higher education, because not one Oklahoma campus tracks these students. She needs more students like Beatrize Martinez to come forward and identify barriers, so R Is For Thursday can take action."I've been with the R Is for Thursday for 2 years, but this last year I've been using it the most because I'm getting ready to graduate," Martinez said.

Dr. Kearney has high hopes for Beatrize, a senior at OCU who's headed to Law school, and other future graduates.

"I want us to have the friendliest, most supportive policy," Dr. Kearney said. "I want us to be the most active and I want to greatly change the number of students in Oklahoma that graduate with foster care backgrounds because they will go out and change a lot of things for a lot of people."

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