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Foster youths explore perks for which only they qualify

Jose Galaviz made a promise to his grandfather before he died: He is going to earn a law degree and “do something awesome.”

His grandfather, a career attorney who raised Galaviz in Veracruz, Mexico, after his mother gave him up as a newborn, died of lung cancer when Galaviz was 12. The now 19-year-old, who was born in Houston, entered the state’s foster care system after making his way back to Texas on his own.

“The only reason I came back to the U.S. is because I have papers,” Galaviz said. “The only reason I am going to college is because I made a promise to my grandfather.”

Despite the odds being stacked against him as a Spanish-speaking youth in foster care, Galaviz said he never lost sight of the promise he made. He’s taken up almost every opportunity available to foster care youth – from transitional living allowance to a college tuition and fee waiver that will fully pay for his college education.

Galaviz, who enrolled at Del Mar College this year, also is part of the Preparation for Adult Living program. The program’s purpose is to prepare youth in foster care for adult life. It connects them with state services, benefits, resources and other forms of support.

Galaviz, a Carroll High School graduate, and other foster care youth from area school districts on Wednesday afternoon toured Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi as part of a conference led by the PAL program.

Students from 19 surrounding counties who are or have been in foster care participated in the Wednesday event. Youths were led through the university’s admissions process and filled out applications for the Education Training Voucher Program, which is the program that will pay for Galaviz's college education.

Last year, 4,869 community college and university students who were either adopted or aged out of the foster care system got to go to college for free via the voucher program. That’s $16,343,921 in waived tuition, according to data generated by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Although it may seem like a no-brainer for foster care youth to take full advantage of the services and programs, Galaviz’s conviction isn’t shared among all his counterparts, said Alma Aranda, specialized case worker and supervisor for the PAL program.

A shaky home life will have that effect, Aranda said.

“You have to have a foundation in order to think of the future,” Aranda said. “And I think (foster care youth) are living day by day.”

Galaviz echoed Aranda’s sentiment. He said it takes a sense of direction to confidently pursue a path to become independent and self-sufficient.

“It depends on how you look at it,” Galaviz said. “It can be really hard or very easy.”

By Beatriz Alvarado

12 July 2017

http://www.caller.com/story/news/education/2017/07/12/foster-youths-explore-perks-which-only-they-qualify/470671001/

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