In the lives of youth in foster care, college is no guarantee - which is why Illinois State University is stepping up to change that notion and give those kids most in need a fighting chance.
"There's a high percentage of homelessness, incarceration, teen pregnancy among foster youth, and so we're trying to change the narrative," explained Masters student and spokesperson Lashawnda Kilgore. "We're trying to turn that around."
ISU is joining the First Star Academy initiative, a weekend and summer program to help high-school students in foster care prepare for college.
"We want to give them that push and that guidance, and those tools that they need so they can be successful adults," said Associate Professor Dr. Deneca Avant, Ph. D.
Nothing changes if nothing changes.
In the Peoria area alone, the Illinois Department of Child and Family services keeps track of nearly 150 kids in foster care.
Among all kids in foster care, less than 10 percent go on to graduate college. That's what the program hopes to change.
One of the biggest goals for First Star Academy students: to have foster students find purpose in a college education. For one ISU student, this program made all of the difference.
Freshman Delores Stallworth is from Chicago and came to ISU after spending two summers in First Star Academy classes. She said opportunities like these allow her to fight stereotypes.
"Being a foster child, we're looked down upon a lot. Like we're not going to make it very far," she said. "So I guess...having that experience makes you want to...you just beat the odds."