Judson to launch mentorship program for foster youth
Judson University in Elgin is launching a youth mentorship program for children who age out of Illinois' foster care system.
Funds raised through Judson's spring World Leaders Forum will help support this new initiative, Judson President Gene Crume said.
Last week's seventh annual forum featured former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.
Forum proceeds previously have supported entrepreneurial programs and initiatives and scholarships at the university.
"With the sponsors' support, it allows us to do some neat and innovative things," Crume said at Thursday's forum. "Starting with this event, the proceeds will continue to support not only those endeavors, but also support a very special group of students."
Crume said 28,000 youths nationwide age out of the foster care system at age 18 or 21 each year. Of those, 31 percent experienced homelessness, 50 percent had been unemployed, and 57 percent had been incarcerated, he said.
"Illinois has one of the highest rates of youths aging out of the system," Crume said.
In 2011, Illinois had the third highest rate of youths aging out, according to Foster Progress.
Judson's mentorship program is being launched in partnership with the Chicago nonprofit, which empowers youths currently or formerly in foster care helping them attain college degrees and transition into adulthood by providing mentorship, advocacy and educational opportunities.
Foster Progress provides college-educated, trained, one-on-one mentors to youths seeking to attend college. It connects students to scholarships and grant money already available and funds any gaps. It also partners with the family, the high school, the foster care agency, and the college to provide a web of support.
"We want to extend the invitation to you to continue to be a part of this inspirational partnership," Crume told the more than 400 people in attendance Thursday.