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Embark Georgia 2021 Virtual Leadership Conference

The 2021 Embark Georgia Leadership Conference is going virtual! We hope each of you will join us over 3 consecutive mornings to hear from state and national practitioners sharing what they have encountered throughout the pandemic and how they are moving forward to serve students who experience foster care and homelessness. Each day will run for approximately 2 hours and will include an opening session with national and state leaders, followed by breakout room options, and will conclude with reflections and opportunities to network.

Day 1: Statewide Focus
The opening day of the conference focuses on statewide strategies and success. The breakout sessions include representation from statewide organizations, non-profits, and campus support programs.

Day 2: National Focus
The second day of the conference focuses on best practices from other states, national policies updates, and youth voice. You have an opportunity to connect with programs and organizations from across the country who specifically support youth experiencing foster care and homelessness in postsecondary educational settings.

Day 3: Research and Promising Practices Focus
The final day of the conference centers on new and emerging research focused on higher education and experiences of young people from foster and homeless backgrounds. The concluding reflection is one you won’t want to miss!

Date and Time: May 24 – 26, 2021 from 8:45 to 11:30 a.m. each day.

Location: Virtual

Click here to register

2021 conference


9:00am Kick off and daily welcome

9:20am  Breakout Sessions

10:20am Coffee Break

10:30am PSA-featured partner

10:45am Reflection for the day

11:15am Conclusion and optional networking

Monday, May 24, 2021

Georgia Campus Support Programs- When it all comes together then what?

Jacqueline Awe-Savannah State

Jami Hall & Heather Williams-Dalton State

Nickkie Warrington and Evan Burnett-Chattahoochee Tech

This session will share highlights from three campus support programs across Georgia.  Throughout both the Technical College System of Georgia and the University System of Georgia each campus has a Designated Point of Contact who is assigned to help support young people experiencing foster care and/or homelessness.  Each of these programs received special projects funding through the past academic term and they will highlight how that funding helped their program and share additional best practices from their experiences. 

Housing Opportunities: the KSU "living learning community" model

Marcy Stidum, Carrie Olsen, and Mandy Gillis-Kennesaw State University

Within the KSU CARES' ASCEND Program there is an option to reside in a Living Learning Village (LLV). The ASCEND LLV is an on-campus living option for KSU CARES students who were homeless and/or in foster care during their K-12 education. These students live together as a community so they can build stronger, hopefully life-long, relationships with students with similar life experiences. The LLV is in partnership with KSU Housing.

Georgia ETV Program: Aid for Foster Students

Candis L. Jones-Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, GARYSE

Jason Bedgood- UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development

The Georgia Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Program utilizes state and federal funds to provide aid to eligible Georgia foster care students.  Come learn about eligibility criteria and how we help guide our students to success in their education after high school.  Also, many of our students will be utilizing resources provided by local Embark/Student Service Programs on each school campus.

GaDOE Updates: Policies, Best Practices and Effective Supports During a Global Pandemic

Eric McGhee, Melanie Barner, Whittney Mitchell-Georgia Department of Education

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, several policies and relief packages were passed to support students in care and students experiencing homelessness.  This session will provide an overview of policy and funding updates from GaDOE, as well as, strategies to enhance identification, collaboration and support for students who have been disproportionately impacted.


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Building Campus Support Programs and Networks - Perspectives from Michigan and Pennsylvania

Sarah Wasch-University of Pennsylvania

Karie Ward- Fostering Success Michigan

This session will highlight the work of two statewide networks focused on increasing postsecondary access and success for youth with experience in foster care. The presenters will introduce the theory of collective impact and share how the model can be used to enhance statewide organizing and campus-based support. An overview of the services available in Michigan and Pennsylvania and examples of successful policies and programs will be shared.

College Students Experiencing Homelessness: Practice and Police Updates from the National Perspective.

Jillian Sitjar, Alleane Anderson, Barbara Duffield-Schoolhouse Connection

The COVID pandemic has highlighted many existing gaps and challenges for students experiencing homelessness in higher education. This session will share best practices with removing barriers (e.g. transition from high school and filling out the FAFSA), to identifying and supporting these students so they can succeed in higher education. This presentation will also provide federal policy updates, implementation, and strategies to get involved and make systemic and impactful change.

Higher Education and Students Experiencing Foster Care: A National Perspective on Policy and Advocacy

Jenny Pokempner-Juvenile Law Center

In this session we will review trends in higher education policy impacting youth with experience in foster care in the states and at the federal level.  We will spotlight policies that support effective and innovative practices and explore opportunities for policy development and advocacy that are on the horizon.  

Redefining, Rethinking, Reflecting: Developing an Intentional Environment for Those Who’ve Experienced Trauma

Justin & Alexis Black

This workshop discusses strategies and techniques developed by foster care alumni, Justin and Alexis Black, as they combined the information they’ve learned from healthy foster parents, counselors, advocates, and ultimately their lived experience. By sharing their personal story of overcoming, they discuss the role of a foster parent and advocate and well as the necessary resources to surround themselves with in order to be a positive partner in the lives of the youth themselves.


Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Experiences of Older Youth In & Aged Out of Foster Care During COVID-19

Johanna Greeson and Sarah Wasch-University of Pennsylvania

Youth aging out of foster care often experience countless hardships when transitioning from foster care to independence. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these young adults are bearing a heavy burden. This session will share findings from a national survey study conducted in April 2020 of 281 young adults in and aged out of foster care. This study has made clear the work we must undertake to improve the health, safety, and well-being of this marginalized population, especially during times of disaster and hardship. Participants will be introduced to policy and practice recommendations that can have an immediate impact on the functioning of youth aging out of care, in addition to understanding how child welfare systems can better prepare young adults for crisis.

Fostering Success Through Coaching: Perspectives of Help Seeking Within a Coaching Relationship with Post-Secondary Students from Foster Care

Dr. Jamie L. Bennett, JLB Training & Consulting

This session will provide an overview of findings from a study that examined the impact of coaching on help-seeking behaviors among college students from foster care. Participants will learn about findings, implications, and practice recommendations related to coaching practice and help-seeking among students from foster care.

Promoting College Persistence for Students with Foster Care Backgrounds: The Role of Campus Support Programs

Nathanael Okpych-University of Connecticut

Jennifer Geiger-University of Illinois at Chicago Jane Addams College of Social Work

This session will present findings from two recent studies on campus-based support programs (CSPs) for college students with foster care backgrounds. The first study collected data from 81 CSP administrators representing 22 states, which provides a birds-eye overview of the features and services offered by the programs. The second study evaluated the role that CSPs in California colleges played in promoting first-year persistence among 401 participants of the CalYOUTH Study. We will conclude by discussing lessons learned and implications for future practice and research.