3 years ago, I joined the Board of the Wily Network because I wanted to continue my involvement with education in the greater Boston area by supporting students who have aged out of the foster care system and students with similar backgrounds.
As many of you know, I served two years with City Year Boston, an AmeriCorps program aiming to address the high school dropout crisis by providing attendance, coursework, and social-emotional coaching to students. My time serving in a 7th-grade classroom in Dorchester, Massachusetts, illuminated the vast differences in resources and support that low-income students and communities receive compared to those in areas of greater wealth, as well as the different needs of students in these circumstances. Wily has allowed me to continue working to break down barriers that these students face when trying to succeed in our education system.
The Wily Network supports students who have experienced foster care or have a similarly complicated family history. Launched in 2015, the Wily Network (TWN) is committed to ensuring successful college experiences for youth who have do not have a family to back them financially, provide emotional support, or guide them during this period of growth. These promising young people face a range of obstacles and need carefully tailored support to succeed in college.
Young adults who have no family to support them are among the most neglected members of our society. Whether they have experienced foster care or have a similarly complicated family history, frequent changes in placement in both homes and schools can set them up for a lifetime of disappointments, failures, and poor relationships. They don’t experience adults as consistently available people they can trust. They reach young adulthood with no money, no reliable adult to “back them up,” and no plan for their future.
TWN is currently working with 16 Boston-area students, who are enrolled at Northeastern University, Boston University, M.I.T., Bridgewater State University, and the University of Massachusetts, Darthmouth, and are finalizing program details with Boston College. TWN provides its students with tangible and intangible benefits that most college students with homes and families take for granted. The majority of our scholars have some contact with their family of origin, yet few can rely on family members for financial or other staedy support. While there is no substitute for a stable family environment, the Wily Network creates a critical safety net.
When these young people have the opportunity to attend college, they can potentially beat the odds. But admission to college is not enough. Many don’t have the supports necessary to succeed once in college. Students who have the grit, talent, and perseverance to gain admittance to college are often seen as having “made it.” In reality, they are entering a challenging social system. They often don’t know how to share their story or develop trusting relationships. Financial, food, and healthcare insecurity create further complications.Our program is specifically designed to help scholars navigate their social and emotional development and financial well-being.
The TWN program has 3 core components: coaching, financial support, and community building. While students without families to support them face challenges similar to those faced by first-generation college students, they require greater attention and support to move from operating in survival mode to full participation in college life. Additionally, these students often need basic supplies for their dorm rooms and their classroom work, and they need places to visit during school vacations and in the summer, and TWN helps fill this hole.
Please join me in fighting for social justice and this worthwhile cause!