Community Asked to be Part of Annual Graduation Celebrations

February 24, 2020 (Benton and Iowa County) – Plans are underway for the annual initiative to recognize area students who have beaten the odds to succeed by graduating from high school while living in foster care, living on their own, or facing homelessness. Many of these students would not be able to celebrate their accomplishments without assistance. It is anticipated that Benton-Iowa Community Partnership for Protecting Children (CPPC) will help as many as fifteen graduates this year in Benton and Iowa counties with referrals coming from school counselors as well as staff from the Iowa Department of Human Services and Juvenile Court Services.

The goal is to help students receive things typically associated with a high school graduation such as senior pictures, invitations, cakes, and refreshments for their celebration, as well as items needed as they transition out of high school and head off to college or their first apartment. Businesses, churches, organizations, and members of the community can help celebrate an outstanding achievement by these students by giving a gift, providing a service, or by making a monetary donation. Monetary donations may be sent to Wesley United Methodist Church, 516 2nd Ave., Vinton, IA 52349. Please include a notation that the donation is for the graduation celebration program.

According to Casey Family Programs, it is estimated that 30 to 50 percent of youth exit the foster care system without a high school diploma or high school equivalent. Meanwhile, only 30. 7 percent of children who grow up in foster care graduate from high school. Of those, less than two percent will go on to college. Most of these students have not only suffered the loss of their biological family but many have also experienced multiple foster homes and moves, as well as changes in case workers, friends, and schools. On average, foster kids will move six times between kindergarten and 12th grade.

In Iowa, about 360 youth exit foster care or juvenile justice placements annually through emancipation, with approximately 63% reporting no monthly income. Youth aging out of foster care often lack natural supports that other youth receive from family.

This is the seventh year for this initiative in Benton and Iowa counties. Past volunteers have shared that one of the most surprising discoveries has been the high number of students living on their own while in high school.

Barb Rego, long-time CPPC volunteer, shared how she recently reconnected with one of the grads—a teen parent. After graduation, the young mother enrolled in college and was excited to share her success making the Dean’s List. She also shared how the gift of the laptop allowed her to do homework at home rather than at the school library and, as a result, she was able to spend more time with her child.

For more information about this initiative, contact Erin Monaghan at Erin.BentonIowaDecat@gmail.com or 319/241-1817 or by calling Barbara Rego at 319/472-3034.

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