For youth in foster care, the path to graduation, like so many elements of their lives, is hard-fought and unpredictable. Considering the turmoil and distress faced daily by this vulnerable population–changing homes and schools, losing friends and meaningful connections–it isn’t surprising that nearly half of all youth in foster care never make the walk across the stage and receive their high school diploma. This eyebrow raising statistic doesn’t just affect the lives of this specific group of young people, it affects all of us. Nationally, those without a high school diploma are twice as likely to be unemployed. They are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, to commit crimes, to become teen parents, to live below the poverty line, and to commit suicide. These are massive social issues, the ramifications of which echo back into the lives of each and every one of us who live in this country.
Though the statistics are daunting, we are not powerless.
Countless studies have shown the power mentoring programs can have on improving the academic performance, behavior, and outlook of youth in foster care. The key point all of these studies return to is the positive impact of a young person forming a bond with an adult they can trust and rely upon. Without question, this is the crux of KING’s mission. As KING Music Mentors build relationships with their students, visiting them in their homes every week to connect and make music, both Music Mentors and foster parents begin to notice improvements in the young person’s attitude and outlook on life: they begin to open up, to smile more, to feel free to express themselves and release some of the tension with which the experience of living in foster care has burdened them. Shortly after starting their weekly lessons with a KING Music Mentor, students are notably more engaged at school, their grades improve, and fewer disciplinary actions are taken against them. Further, for the last four years running, 100% of KING’s eligible seniors have graduated high school and 95% have gone on to pursue higher education, attend vocational school, or enlist in the military. This, to be frank, is astonishing and proves that when we invest in the lives of youth in foster care we really can alter the course of their lives.
Of course, the lifeblood of our organization and the success of our Mentoring through Music program is the generous volunteers who offer their time every week to serve a young person in the Austin community in need of guidance and encouragement. Without their generosity and our kind-hearted donors and sponsors who call this amazing community home, our program would never be able to have made the impact that we have made. If you would like to support our continued efforts to improve the lives of Central Texas youth in foster care and, in turn, better the Central Texas area at large, please consider donating or volunteering with Kids In A New Groove today!