Tstudents on UT campushe Spark program, an initiative from the School of Social Work’s Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing, empowers former foster youth by providing necessary support systems to attend the university.

This summer the institute partnered with  DFPS Pal Services and Foster Angels of Central Texas to host the Second Annual Spark UT Teen Conference for a group of 30 students currently in foster care.

Conference attendees stayed overnight on the UT Austin campus, getting a glimpse of life in the Jester dorms, eating in the campus cafe, and even bowling at the Union Underground. Activities to help students familiarize themselves with the Forty Acres included campus tours,  a scavenger hunt, and a tour of the football stadium.

“The idea behind this event is to encourage youth to start thinking about their future, and give them a unique opportunity to experience life as a UT Austin student,” says Shannon Mann-Butler, the Spark program coordinator. “I think it helped them see UT Austin as a welcoming community that they can become a part of and achieve their goals.”

The conference also included workshops to provide practical education and lessons in topics such as stress management, financial planning for college, overcoming fear and rejection, and getting and keeping a job.

Read more on the Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing blog.