TACOMA, Wash. – An art class on the University of Puget Sound campus is far from Zjataya Campbell's comfort zone.
“We didn't get here from the same journey and I know that,” said Campbell. “My dad was incarcerated before I was three, and before that he had done numerous crimes from burglaries to murder. His high school career wasn't ever started. He dropped out in eighth grade, and my mother of course did drugs.”
Campbell found herself in foster care. What she did not count on in her life was a cap and gown.
“No one in my family has walked across the stage ever. It was a huge accomplishment. I didn't think I was going to graduate high school. I had tried to drop out a few times, and my counselor told me no,” said Campbell.
The same high school counselor connected her with the College Success Foundation.
“We really want to level the playing field,” said Katie Kaiser with the Foundation’s Foster Care Initiative.
Kaiser says Washington state statistics show about 50% of young people in foster care graduate high school, and nationwide, less than ten percent complete a Bachelor’s Degree.
“We are very much trying to make sure our students are not that statistic, and the fact that they are here already means they are beating the odds,” said Kaiser.
University of Puget Sound is the practice ground where students receive a crash course in the college experience. They spend a few days in dorms, and attend classes on subjects like financial aid. Campbell is participating so she will be ready in the Fall.
“I’m going to go to Eastern Washington, and when I’m finished, I hope to be a Neurosurgeon,” said Campbell.
Campbell is among the more than 400 students who have benefitted from the Governors’ Scholarship for Foster Youth.