Anchor Program to Aid Foster Children

BLOOMSBURG—After a very successful first year of the Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania Anchor Program, planning is now underway for year two of the program.

Studies have shown that children aging-out of the foster care system are more likely to experience homelessness or worse yet, end up in prison, within five years according to numerous studies. The Anchor Program is aimed to give children in the foster care system a chance to explore their academic interests and talents through a multi-year summer residential college life experience program and year-round mentorship opportunities. This year’s on-campus session of the program is scheduled for July 21-28, 2018.

In its inaugural year, 25 youth in care took part in the weeklong program. Of those 25, three who had just graduated high school in 2017, went to college. At least one of last year’s participants has been admitted to Bloomsburg University for the upcoming academic year.

“The program was very successful in its initial year,” said Rona Anderson, assistant to the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, who coordinates the program. “The first group of students who went through the program all had great experiences during the week. Several of them enjoyed it so much they are now coming back in year two to serve as Crew Leaders to our 2018 class of children. That’s very inspiring to me and everyone who put in hundreds of hours planning the programming for the students. The students who took part in last year’s initial session gave us valuable feedback on ways we can improve the program.”

“This year, like our first year, we will connect children in care with current Bloomsburg University students, fellow Anchor classmates, and Bloomsburg University faculty and staff through student life activities and academic workshops. BU mentors will partner with the youth throughout the year about topics such as developing academic goals, exploring academic disciplines (e.g., business, science, art, music), researching post-secondary institutions, and navigating financial aid/scholarships.”

The Anchor Program is open to youth involved in the Pennsylvania foster care system from any county. Last year, participants came from Columbia, Luzerne, Snyder, Northumberland, and Union counties. Interested youth should contact their caseworker to obtain an application for the program. Anchor Program team members and county foster care workers will evaluate applications and extend invitations to accepted applicants. In 2017 forty youth will be accepted into the Anchor residential college life experience program.

Anchor students are housed in residence halls on campus and supervised 24 hours a day by university staff, including Bloomsburg University students who will serve as residential staff, and faculty.

Through hands-on workshops and activities led by University faculty members, participants will explore a variety of academic disciplines like science, art, and English. Building leadership skills, learning healthy cooking tips, becoming certified in CPR/First Aid, and other independent living and college readiness skills will be incorporated into activities throughout the week as well.  Movie nights and other recreational activities will give Anchor students the opportunity to connect with classmates and current university students.

“What’s great about this is there no cost to the Anchor students,” Anderson says. ‘Meals, housing, activities and program materials will be provided free of charge. We have been fortunate to receive a grant from PPL as well as university support and donations to cover all associated costs.”

“These children already face a tough road in life just by being in the foster care system,” said James Brown, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “If we (adults) can show them that people do care about them and provide them with skills non-foster care children already have access to, we can help them chart a better course in life.”

Anyone interested in donating to the program, financially (dollars or in-kind gifts) or through volunteering, should contact Anderson at 570-389-4806 or via email at randers3@bloomu.edu.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 9,600 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Education, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.