Kids are graduating from foster care and enrolling in college this fall, thanks to a new pilot program.
Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Kingsville are the first universities in Texas to offer this state program. It provides free room and board to students that came from foster care.
Today, dozens of prospective students in foster care toured TAMU-CC.
"I had butterflies and my heart was all like, boing, boing, boing, boing!" said Hector Isaac Villarreal, one 18-year-old who is considering getting an education at TAMU-CC in the future.
Many others felt like him today.
"I love it, i love it! I’m like so excited!" said Nicole Bueno-Villa, who will start taking classes at the University fall semester.
As they toured campus, many thought it becoming their new home.
"When I got here they said that, ‘we care about you, we care about you.; That’s something good to hear! Especially if you’ve been thrown away a lot of times," Villarreal said.
The dream of attending TAMU-CC can now be reality.
Students accepted from foster care will get housing and meals for free through a new Supervised Independent Living program.
"In the state of Texas, approximately 80 percent of the children in foster care state that they would like to go to college, however only 1.5 percent of the students actually obtain a Bachelors degree. And so we as a university want to make sure we can change those numbers," Dr. Rachel Kirk, the program coordinator for TAMU-CC, said.
Bueno-Villa is one of four students who will enroll in college this fall thanks to the program. Another two students will enroll in A&M Kingsville.
It would help a lot of students. Especially with kids whose parents don’t really help them out anymore," Bueno-Villa said. "It’s very helpful to know you have something to lean on to help you accomplish your goals."
It is not only a route to for these kids to achieve their aspirations, their basic needs will also be met.
"Normally we have youth that work two or three jobs, and they’re going to college, and they’re trying to make ends meet. This is a way for them to actually be college kids. It lets them take advantage of the learning. they don’t have to worry about the money," Christi Haigood, a Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) case specialist, said.
The opportunity to learn without distraction is an opportunity these kids do not take for granted.
"Growing up sometimes there is not a lot of food to eat," Villarreal said. "if someone gives you free food, that is wow, such a blessing from God, to get foster kids out from being hurt, and becoming something in life."
A separate state program that launched a few years ago also allows kids from foster care who are accepted to state universities attend without paying tuition.