Teens in the foster care program have limited time to think about their future before they age out of the system.

  • Program helps foster care teens improve skills
  • Teens mentored at UCF
  • Program to expand by next summer

For four weeks, 22 high school age foster kids in Central Florida are making it their mission to study this summer as members of the First Star Academy.

"We first make sure that we care about them, and believe that they can achieve,” the director of First Star Academy, Dr. Deshawn Sims, said.

“We assess where they are and we meet them where they are at academically and emotionally to take them to the next level," said Sims.

For one student, Taina Marquez, 15, the program has been trans-formative.

"Before I would sit in class and literally not do my work. I was a straight 'F' student,” Marquez said.

“Coming to First Star and doing the academic classes I feel like I've changed completely. My perspective on school work has totally changed, " she explained.

Marquez is just one of the 22 foster kids enrolled in First Star Academy's summer class program.

Once enrolled, these students get to visit the University of Central Florida once a month for mentoring.

During the summer they get to stay on UCF’s campus for four weeks, take classes on campus, and get one-on-one attention.

Director Dr. Sims says the emotional and educational support they provide is crucial to helping foster students thrive despite their background or unpredictable home environment.

UCF's Dean of education says nationally students in foster care only have about a 50 percent high school graduation rate.

"Before I felt like I couldn't achieve my goals but now I feel like I have a better chance," Marquez said.

First Star estimates the program for 30 youth costs about $4350 per student each month.

Right now they depend on State and private funding to provide the summer program for the students.

Their hope is to expand next summer, adding another 30 students to the program. The increased costs could be near $85,000 for the year.