We stake out a safety net …

CEO Bruce Stanley

President / CEO Bruce Stanley

When my two children graduated from high school, they had no doubt what would happen next. My wife and I would pack them up for college; help pay for tuition, books, and the campus meal plan. We would help with their car insurance, cell phones, and later oversee their first rental agreements.

For many it’s a rite of the season as graduations are celebrated and parents stake out safety nets for their children going to college. It’s an investment – as much emotional as financial – in supporting a young person on the edge of adulthood.

But there are others for whom this step is not so easy or secure. Young people who’ve lived in foster homes or juvenile justice homes approach adulthood at a disadvantage due to lack of parental involvement, intergenerational cycles of poverty or incarceration, mental health or substance abuse problems in the home. They are significantly less likely to graduate from high school, go to college, and earn a degree. Without a safety net, their potential can be lost.

Methodist Home for Children helps provide that net with this lifetime commitment: If you have lived with us, and you meet your academic obligations, you can count on us for funding and mentoring to help you meet your higher education goals.

We call this the Hackley Education and Learning Program | Meet our HELP students»

Each year, we allocate up to $100,000 to support about 25 students with tuition, laptop and books, rent, insurance, or other needs. We commit to help them overcome the obstacles of their youth, no matter how long it takes them, and we assign each a mentor. We have students at Campbell, Wake Tech, N.C. State, East Carolina University, N.C. A&T, and other institutions in state and out. One of our students, whom we’ve known since she was 13, will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and sustainable tourism this summer. She’s a rare exception among her peers. Nationally, fewer than 3 percent of those who age out of foster care go on to earn a college degree. Another one of our students will start taking community college classes this fall with a four-year business degree as his end goal. Just six months ago, he was finishing 10 months in a youth prison; last month he left our transitional living home with a high school degree and a job.

The societal benefits of higher education for at-risk youth are undeniable – even if measured only by lifetime savings in social services dependency or incarceration. But for us, it’s personal, too. It’s our goal to help young people see a better future for themselves, and we show them that higher education is the key to self-sufficiency and lives lived productively. For some of our youth, that may be a trade certificate; for others, it’s a master’s degree and beyond. We meet them where they are – whatever their abilities or interests – and stretch out a bit of safety net as they step into adulthood.