Senior Sean Hudson heard the words, “Foster kids do not stay in college,” over and over again as he was applying to become a student at the University of Alabama.
A recent study done by the nsoro Foundation found that only two percent of foster care children go on to earn college degrees.
However, two students at UA with a background in foster care, Hudson and senior Caroline James, defy the odds as they both look to graduate in May.
Hudson entered foster care at age 14 because he lived in an emotionally and physically abusive home. He lived in a total of three group homes and two foster homes over the next few years. It was not until Hudson met social worker Alice Westery in his second group home that he began to feel like his life had a purpose.
“[Westery] motivated me not to give up,” Hudson said. “She has been in my life ever since and to this day she is like a second mother to me.”
Hudson graduated with a 3.6 GPA from high school and was the only person in his graduating class of 2009 to earn over $1 million in scholarship and grant offers from more than 10 different public and private schools.
“I had a lot of people tell me that I could never get into UA because of my background,” Hudson said. “I did think I would make it but not to the capacity that I am at today.”
Hudson plans on getting his masters in social work at UA after he graduates in May. Then his dream is to either attend the University of Chicago or Emory Law School to get a law degree with a specialization in advocacy and public policy.
Caroline James plans to graduate in May as well with degrees in both social psychology and intercultural communications.
James entered foster care at age 11 and, like Hudson, lived in several group and foster homes. The turning point for James, however, was her acceptance to Booker T. Washington magnet school in Montgomery.
“That was probably the only thing that saved me,” James said.
Prior to the magnet school, James attended an on-site school at her group home, which consisted of students who could not read or, even in some cases, spell their names.
James, who taught herself to read at a young age, was far too equipped for the classes at her group home. However, she says that in her transition to magnet school, and then to UA, there were subjects that she struggled with — like math.
“When someone grows up in foster care all of that time prior to that, and some of the time even in foster care, you are being inadequately educated,” James said. “You’re dealing with parents who don’t have money. They are living in a very poor area. They can’t help you and sometimes they can’t even get you to school.”
James now has a 3.8 GPA at UA and will graduate in the top 10 percent of her class in May. Following graduation, James has applied to work for Teach for America for two years before entering a human rights graduate program at Columbia University.