When foster kids age out of the system, many lack the knowledge, skills and resources to live independently. One-third will experience homelessness by age 26, studies show.
In summer 2017, as part of the Social Impact Fellows program, UB graduate students Cheyenne Ketter-Franklin and Jonathan Puma worked with a housing agency to develop a sustainable program to help foster kids transition to independent living. The students researched the population, met with other agencies and conducted a focus group of foster youth. Then they went to work on a solution, including a business plan, new policies and procedures, and marketing collateral.
Puma and Ketter-Franklin formed one of eight teams of students from the School of Management and the School of Social Work. Each team worked at a mission-driven organization to find solutions to pressing social issues and make a lasting impact on the community, and then presented their solutions at the Pitch for a Cause competition to win funding for their respective organizations.
In addition to housing and economic challenges, student teams confronted issues in gender equity, health care, food waste and community development. Fellows worked with organizations such as Child and Family Services, Erie County Medical Center and the Western New York Women’s Foundation.
This is just one of the many programs made possible in part by UB’s Blackstone LaunchPad, a hands-on learning program supported by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation that introduces entrepreneurship as a viable career option to all UB students. The program was offered again in 2018, thanks to the support of the Charles D. and Mary A. Bauer Family Foundation.
UB students give thousands of hours to the community each year in experiential learning programs, including alternative break trips and days of service.