June 18, 2019

Contact:  Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
                Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

Reach Higher Montana Summit for Youth in Foster Care at Carroll College

This week, 60 Montana youth in foster care will experience a slice of college life at the Reach Higher Montana Summit at Carroll College.

Now in its 14th year, the Summit is designed to help youth in foster care on their paths to life after high school graduation - including college opportunities, and preparation to enter the workforce.

Attendees will be on campus through Thursday, June 20 learning various life skills, including how to apply for jobs, college, and scholarship opportunities. Students who attend the Summit are gifted a laptop computer for their college studies.

While at the Summit, students stay in dorm rooms, eat in the cafeteria, participate in mini-classes, and learn firsthand what it is like to be a college student.

“I just love seeing the excitement on student’s faces,” said Rhonda Safford, Programs Manager at Reach Higher Montana. “Youth in foster care have faced many difficulties in their lives and this experience brings them together to remind them that they are not alone, and that education after high school is possible for them.”

Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) Director Sheila Hogan said Summit is invaluable. “All youth deserve a chance to be successful, and this Summit provides an excellent opportunity for these students to learn new skills that will stay with them in the years to come,” Hogan said.

When the program first started in 2005, Reach Higher Montana only received a handful of applicants. Today, over 80 students apply for the event. This year’s Summit is at capacity and Safford hopes to increase the number of participants next year to meet future demand. “It is part of our mission to support youth in foster care who are exploring educational opportunities, and we want to be there for them as they transition to the next chapter in their lives. The Summit is a wonderful opportunity for students to realize college and successful employment are possible.”

The Summit is a cooperative effort between Reach Higher Montana and DPHHS. Reach Higher Montana partners year-round with DPHHS to offer various programs to support Montana’s youth in foster care, including administering Education and Training Vouchers (ETVs) which help cover the cost of postsecondary education. Those interested can contact Reach Higher Montana and DPHHS to explore opportunities to support youth in foster care.

About the Montana Chafee Foster Care Independent Program

The Montana Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (MCFCIP) is a part of the Child and Family Services Division of the Department of Public Health and Human Services. Youth in foster care face unique and difficult challenges as they turn eighteen and leave the foster care system. The services offered by the MCFCIP are intended to help Montana foster youth get the life skills they need to make a successful transition into adulthood. By assisting youth in achieving self-sufficiency and obtaining future goals, the MCFCIP enables youth in the foster care system to create a healthy lifestyle and a successful future. For more information go to http://dphhs.mt.gov/CFSD/FosterCareIndependence.aspx

About Reach Higher Montana

The mission of Reach Higher Montana is to help students strategically pursue educational opportunities. In addition to Reach Higher Montana’s work supporting youth in foster care, the organization provides outreach to students and educators statewide on career and college opportunities. Learn more at www.ReachHigherMontana.org.

Foster Care Education and Training Voucher

Eligible Montana foster care youth are able to receive up to $5,000 a year to help cover the cost of attending a postsecondary institution through the Foster Care Education and Training Voucher (ETV) program.  Learn more at http://www.reachhighermontana.org/foster-care/.