Embark is a project based at the JW Fanning Institute for Leadership Development at UGA designed to increase college access for youth who have experienced foster care or homelessness. Students who have experienced these factors in their lives face significant challenges when pursuing a postsecondary education due to a multitude of factors including diminished access to financial resources, instability while in high school, and significantly reduced social capital. The other side of that coin is that any student who has overcome significant barriers and seeks to continue their education has leadership potential that must be nurtured - and a great place for this happen is on a college campus.  Students who are able to enroll in a postsecondary educational institution have earned the credentials against great odds and represent the future leaders of Georgia. The vision of Embark is that any person who has experienced foster care and/or homelessness will have ample academic, financial, social, and emotional supports to access, navigate and complete a post-secondary education.


The Embark Mission: The Embark Georgia statewide network serves post-secondary professionals and institutions to ensure connectivity, share best practices, and provide information exchange among youth, community based stakeholders, and K-12 educators in support of former foster and homeless youth.Working in partnership is crucial to achieving our goals.  Embark works collaboratively with a number of agencies and organizations to improve the educational options for young people who have experienced foster care or homelessness.  On our statewide network>partners page, you will find several key partners and their contact information.  On the students>student resources page, you will find a number of community partners who work with this same group of students. 


Here is a graphic that represents how all of these partners work together:




The numbers are staggering. There are over 10,000 young people in foster care in Georgia right now. In FY 2014, over 30,000 young people were identified as homeless by a school district homeless liaison while attending a K-12 school. There is no data that provides an accurate picture of how many of these students succeed in pursuing a postsecondary education – but we do know how critical it is for every person to have skills that translate to the workforce. It is crucial that we support these students in their pursuit of a postsecondary education so that they will be in a position to contribute to our state’s economy, raise their own families and be strong citizens of Georgia. While there is no reliable data to demonstrate the rate of homeless students who pursue a postsecondary education, there have been a few regional studies that have studied outcomes of young people who have experienced foster care.



Consider these numbers:

• 2066 High school age children in foster care (FY 14, according to AFCARS)

• 1696 High school seniors who are homeless (FY 14, according to GADoE)

According to the Northwest Study, youth at age 23 or 24 who have experience foster care are:

• 26% more likely to not be employed

• Have an average annual income of $8000 compared to $18,300 among the comparison group

• Men are are 49% more likely to have been convicted of a crime; women are 26% more likely to have been convicted of a crime

• 8.2% of youth with foster care experience had completed a 2 or 4 year degree compared to 46% of the comparison group

Source: Mark Courtney, et al, Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth: Outcomes at Age 23 and 24, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, 2011. (Comparison group for this study: National Longitudinal Study Of Adolescent Health)


In spite of these outcomes, many youth who have experienced foster care want to continue their education. According to one study, 84% of youth with foster care experience expressed an interest in pursuing a postsecondary education. However, only 20% actually enrolled and far fewer completed a degree.

Source: Fostering Success in Education: National Factsheet on the Educational Outcomes of Children in Foster Care


What are the barriers that prevent these young people from achieving their postsecondary educational dreams? According the Supporting Success , a framework for “improving higher education outcomes for students in foster care,” developed by John Emerson of Casey Family Programs, there are several situations that may become barriers to pursuing a degree after high school, including:

• They may lack basic information about college

• They may ‘age out’ of foster care and must become financially independent

• They may not have people who have made college a priority for them

The Embark program in Georgia is built upon the experiences and successes of other states. The first program of its kind was the Guardian Scholars program at Cal State Fullerton in 1998. This campus based program sought to identify specific supports for youth who lacked social supports but were enrolled at the institution. Similar campus based programs began to develop on other campuses in California and in other states. Later, campus based programs began to band together to share information and strategies for supporting students and developed statewide networks, such as Fostering Success Michigan and Ohio Reach. In 2014, with guidance and support from Casey Family Programs, a knowledge community within NASPA to connect programs and networks together across the country.


In Georgia, Embark was developed with support from the College Access Challenge Grant in 2012. The CACG was based in the University System of Georgia office; the focus of CACG was to increase college access for underrepresented populations in Georgia. In the first year of support from the CACG in Georgia, David Meyers and Lori Tiller from UGA were charged with developing an inventory of campus based support programs in Georgia and traveled to do site visits at several existing programs, including the Seita Scholars program at Western Michigan University, UW Champions at the Unviersity of Washington and Alabama REACH at the University of Alabama. Following the first CACG contract year, Fanning developed a toolkit with information and tips for campuses to reference. In the second year of support from the CACG, direct support efforts began at UGA and the statewide network was born. A conscious decision was made at that time to develop programs for students who have experienced homelessness and those who have experienced foster care, since many of the issues that these students face are similar.

Embark seeks to set the stage for young people who have experienced foster care or homelessness to have increased access to college and a better chance to complete college.  As part of this overall goal, we have identified several subgoals:

Statewide Network

  • To improve mechanisms for understanding how many young people enroll and complete a post-secondary education – there is not currently a good system for understanding the enrollment and graduation rates of these student groups
  • To support campus based program leaders and the Designated Points of Contact across Georgia who are providing direct services to students
  • To support and improve systems so that students who have experienced foster care or homelessness have greater opportunity to pursue their postsecondary education dreams


  • To provide resource and referral information to students on campus at UGA so that they can access existing services
  • To maintain a network of interested campus supporters
  • To build connections and community through activities and events

It is our hope that this site will be a tool that students as well as adult supporters may use to identify supports throughout the state to help link young people to services.  You will find information about colleges and universities across the state and any distinct services that may be offered at that campus - as well as the Designated Point of Contact for each school - someone who can connect you to resources on that campus.  You will also find information about scholarships and other fianancial resources that may help pay for postsecondary educational expenses.  Overall, we hope that you find this to be a useful resource as you make plans for life after high school.  If you have feedback, please use the Contact Us page and let us know how we can support your postsecondary educational aspirations.





The J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development
– a public service and outreach unit of the University of Georgia – is dedicated to strengthening communities, organizations, and individuals through leadership development, training, and education.

Embark Georgia is located at the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development.
David Meyers and Lori Tiller are the network directors. Our offices are located at 

1240 S. Lumpkin St.
Athens, GA 30605

You may contact us by calling 706-542-1108 or emailing  EMBARK@fanning.uga.edu
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