Community effort can have big impact on youth success
Representative Les Gara's office is teaming up with community members to help get current and former foster youth laptop computers. Foster youth advocacy groups such as Facing Foster Care in Alaska (FFCA) will help match computers with youth who need them as they strive to succeed.
Having a computer that can stay with them allows foster youth to do schoolwork and stay connected to families and friends as they too often bounce between different schools and homes. A computer can also help youth transition into successful adulthood.
"We have a lot to do, but Alaskans have consistently shown they want to help in amazing ways," said Democratic State Representative Les Gara, a former foster child. "We want to help level the playing field for youth working towards success in school, and after."
Anchorage resident Julie Robinson approached Rep. Gara's office with the idea, and both have started to match foster youth with good, late model computers this month. Because so many foster youth are uprooted, and are all too often on the move between homes, Gara's office is requesting late model, working laptops, not desk top computers. A local computer business has offered volunteer time to offer the technical help needed to make this project a success.
“It’s a win-win. We are supporting the environment by not letting these used electronics fill-up landfills, and providing a resource for youth in foster care to succeed,” said Robinson.
“Having a computer now helps me get all my school work done on time to get the grades I need to get in to the colleges I would like to go to,” said Sara Redmon, a 16-year-old currently in foster care. She was recently matched with a computer by Robinson and FFCA.
Amanda Metivier, FFCA's founder and statewide coordinator, has been working on this project and making matches with current and recently graduated foster youth.
"In recent meetings of youth, the vast majority have stated they have lived in more than 5 different foster homes. It's why we're focusing on laptops," said Metivier, also a former foster youth who is a graduate student at the University of Alaska and is working in Rep. Gara's office until the start of the January legislative session.
Rep. Gara is working with the Alaska Office of Children's Services (OCS) to try to establish OCS as the lead agency on this effort, though that is going to take some time due to staffing shortages. Currently OCS only grants computers to youth after they graduate from high school.
"In the meantime, we think community members can make this work," said Gara.
Here's a statement from Rep. Gara on how you help:
We are looking for laptops that:
1. are in excellent working order;
2. are no more than 4 years old;
3. have a word processing program;
4. do not need any repairs.
If you have one to donate, contact either Rep. Gara at 269-0106; or Amanda Metivier, who is representing Facing Foster Care Alaska on this project, at (907)-230-8237. They will work with community groups to match computers with foster youth.
In the past year Rep. Gara's Office has worked with Metivier and FFCA to spearhead a host of similar volunteer efforts including FosterWear, which provides discount high quality clothing to foster youth; a mentorship effort to match mentors with youth, and efforts to match Imagination Library with foster youth. OCS has worked to incorporate each of these initiatives into its program for Alaska's foster youth.