After 11 years in the foster system in Kansas, Alexandria Ware, 24, works passionately to ensure other foster children have the support they need after high school.
Only 10 percent of foster children go to college, and of those, only three percent graduate, according to the nonprofit group Promises2Kids.
Ware is one of the three percent – an achievement she attributes to self-motivation.
“As a foster child, I learned to find mentors for myself,’ she said.
Ware graduated from Kansas State University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in family studies and human services and a minor in conflict analysis and trauma studies. She co-founded Fostering Success at KSU to provide a support system for college students who are in or exiting from foster care.
“In many states, kids who age out of the foster system can get a tuition waiver for college so it seems shocking that they don’t take advantage of that,” she said. “But they aren’t going to college if they don’t have all their other needs met.”
Ware didn’t stop with a bachelor’s degree. She began a master’s degree program in human development and family science at OSU-Tulsa in 2016.
Last summer, she was awarded a prestigious internship with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute in Washington, D.C. Ware was one of 12 selected to participate in the organization’s Foster Youth Internship Program and assigned to work with the U.S. House Ways and Means committee.
Interns were charged with identifying a child welfare system problem, exploring possible solutions and issuing federal policy recommendations based on research. Ware’s project focused on creating support systems that would help and encourage foster children to attend college.
“Alex is probably the most motivated student I have ever had the pleasure to work with. She not only has overcome many personal obstacles to be successful, she continuously mentors others to do the same,” said Dr. Karina Shreffler, OSU-Tulsa professor of human development and family science and Tulsa Academic Programs coordinator.
“She has a passion for helping children and adolescents overcome adversity, which is easy to see by the time and effort she spends volunteering and searching for resources for them.”
Ware believes she never would have been selected for the internship without the assistance of OSU-Tulsa Career Services and coordinator Jessica Bradley.
“Jessica helped me write the letter, put together my resume and prepped me for my interview,” she said. “It is so nice to have this resource on campus.”
As a career, Ware plans to continue to advocate for support for foster children aging out of the system as a way to increase college retention and graduation rates.
“I want to let kids know that your past doesn’t define who you are,” she said. “There is so much you can learn from giving back. And that is what I want continue to do.”