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Educate Tomorrow's mission is to create independence for foster youth in Miami-Dade County through education, mentoring, and life skills training. Educate Tomorrow addresses the issue of educational attainment by integrating activities designed to support the physical, emotional, social, and academic needs of current and former foster youth. This integration creates a program that is ultimately more effective than the traditional mentoring program. Educate Tomorrow is guided by the principles of collaboration, accountability, and civic engagement.
Educate Tomorrow was founded in 2003 as a result of Board Chair Melanie Damian's work as a Guardian ad Litem for children in foster care in Miami-Dade County. She was shocked at the fact that young people turning 18 in foster care were expected to live independently, when most lacked the support and skills necessary to do so. Seeing that education was the path that would create independence for these young people, Ms. Damian collaborated with her sister Virginia Emmons, just returning from the Peace Corps, and three of their other sisters to make education a priority for foster youth. Thus, Educate Tomorrow was founded.
ET implements a holistic program composed of one-on-one mentoring, educational, and independent living activities, and in-school support for foster youth between the ages of 14 and 23. The cornerstone of the program is mentoring, which is one of the most effective ways to change the life of a disadvantaged youth. Dr. Ruby K. Payne, in her groundbreaking study "A Framework A Framework for Understanding Poverty" (1996), found that one effective means for people to leave poverty is that someone "sponsors" them and "convinces them that they could live differently." ET's mentoring relationships create a bridge out of poverty for these youth.
The mentoring program is designed in accordance with nationally recognized best practices and evidence-based strategies for mentoring. MENTOR's Elements of Effective Practice is the springboard for the program design; this is supplemented by research and strategies targeting the specific needs of and resources available to foster youth.
The second element of ET's program is the Educational Success Event - events and activities designed to provide educational and independent living skills to the youth in the program. For the high school aged youth, ET offers three-to-four day college tours throughout Florida. For youth who are 18 or older, ET organizes young men's and young women's life skills retreats. During the retreats, a variety of activities are planned; for example, resume and college essay writing, career panels, dinner with community volunteers, nutrition, cooking, budgeting, and other independent living skill workshops. Day-long mentor/mentee events are held on a bi-monthly basis. Activities may include a healthy eating and cooking session; educational and career goal setting; or a service project.
The third component of ET's program is in-school support. ET developed a training program for school personnel on the unique needs of and the resources available to foster youth. ET trained over 300 counselors in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools; the training is now an integral part of the new counselor orientation. In addition, ET worked with school counselors in high schools with high concentrations of foster youth to facilitate in-school support groups.
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