Jacob Okumu has spent years researching emancipated foster youth and their adjustment to college.

Tackling family-themed weekends, a surge of independence and a new environment will hopefully be a bit easier for students coming from the foster care system to Ohio University.

Jacob Okumu, whose dissertation looked into the transition of emancipated foster youth into college, helped secure a $20,000 grant from the state to enhance mentoring programs for those students in an effort to improve their retention rates.

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“My initial reaction (was) 'yes, Ohio University is becoming more inclusive in providing access and retention for more and more underrepresented students in higher education',” Okumu said in an email.

OU President Roderick McDavis formally accepted the money from representatives from the Attorney General’s Office, the Board of Regents and Ohio Reach, which focuses on post-secondary education for foster youth, at a ceremony in Baker Center on Wednesday.

About 2 to 9 percent of foster youth who graduate high school obtain bachelor’s degrees, according to the National Factsheet on the Educational Outcomes of Children in Foster Care.

The money, which is renewable for the 2016-17 academic year, as well, means the Office of Multicultural Student Access and Retention, where Okumu works as coordinator for Student Outreach and Developmental Services, will have more resources to host psychosocial programming, social events and weekly one-on-one mentoring meetings with foster youth at OU.

More than 300 applicants to the university for the incoming freshman class self-identified as having been in the foster care system. About 150 were accepted, Okumu said. OU received a record-breaking number of applications -- more than 20,000 -- for that class.

This was the first year potential students could ask for more information about resources available to foster youth when applying to OU.

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Before, the only way to identify foster youth studying at OU was to sift through FAFSA information.

The grant will go toward scholarships to help emancipated foster youth study abroad, as well.

oh271711@ohio.edu

@ohitchcock

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