The Blavin Impact
When foster care youth age out of the system, they face significant challenges in higher education. According to the Foster Care Alumni of America, only two percent of these individuals overcome the roadblocks and earn a degree. Observing this hole in support, Paul and Amy Blavin decided to step up and initiate change.
This change took the form of the Blavin Scholars program, an initiative created by the Blavins which would provide the emotional and financial support that former foster care youth need to obtain a higher education.
“This is an area that is very deserving and in need of private support,” Paul Blavin says. “Foster care gets very little attention from philanthropists. That’s a mistake because the easy thing is to jump on the bandwagon for popular charitable causes, but those may not be the ones that really need support.”
Filling the gaps
Through the Blavin Scholars Program, donors can support former foster care students and provide funds for expenses not covered by the university or federal aid—this way, the recipients can avoid taking out loans for their education.
However, the Blavin Scholars program is not just a scholarship program. The initiative includes a network of additional support resources for students, including housing, room supplies, academic guidance, and mentorship. Assisting these students in various ways is critical to help ensure their success.
“We want to make sure that all Blavin scholars know that we have their back, and we are going to do what it takes to help them succeed,” Blavin says.
After a successful career in investments, Blavin affirms that the Blavin’s Scholar Program is the one that has yielded the most returns for him personally.
“By making this gift and enabling these students to earn a degree, it’s not only changing their lives, but it’s a major contribution to reversing a well-documented cycle of failure,” Blavin says. “So donors aren’t just helping the Blavin Scholars—they are dramatically helping generations to come.”
A close ally
Five NAU students are currently supported through the program. Each has been paired with a faculty member who serves as a mentor guiding the student through academic challenges and toward personal growth opportunities.
Sharon Downer, a Blavin Scholar and senior comparative cultural studies major, talks about the difference this mentorship has made on her undergraduate journey.
“I have become really good friends with my mentor,” Downer says. “I can talk to her about what’s on my mind, and she’s a great role model for me. We share dinner and holidays, and it’s nice to have someone like that in my life.”
Another student, junior Bay-Lee Fournier, explains that the support of the Blavin Scholars Program has not only helped her on her path to earning a psychology degree, but has also left an impression that will stay with her long after graduation.
“I learned that people genuinely care,” Fournier says. “When I first came to NAU, I didn’t believe in myself. That’s just a thought pattern I developed over time from being in foster care. The program gave me the boost I needed to succeed and prove I could do this.”
The difference that matters
In May 2013, the Blavins saw their first Blavin Scholar—Kyle Beloin—graduate Northern Arizona University with degrees in political science and philosophy. For the Blavins, seeing Beloin find success affirmed the impact their program can have in the lives of students and the difference it can continue to make going forward.
“I can’t help but feel what we provide to these students is minimal relative to what we get back by being a part of it,” Blavin explains. “Their success is a testament to the beauty of the human spirit, and it’s incredibly joyous to be involved in helping these students.”