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College support available for former foster children

North Island College student Andrew Parker is heading back to class in January for his fourth year without having to worry about how to pay for it.

Parker, who lived in foster homes before the age of 10, will receive a Former Youth in Care post-secondary tuition waiver that will pay for his education at the Campbell River campus.

Now working as a heavy-duty mechanic in the forestry industry, he took advantage of the waiver for his Level 3 training and will do the same for Level 4.

“Having financial support through the Tuition Waiver program allowed me to take the program I wanted without having to worry about tuition,” said Parker. “It gave me the freedom to say, ‘These are the courses I want to take and this is what I want to do with my life,’ and then being able to do it.”

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Launched in 2017, the Former Youth in Care funding was created by the province to improve access, services and educational outcomes for former youth in care. The waiver covers tuition up to $5,500 a year. Former youth in care can also receive funding for supplies, books and living expenses while enrolled in school.

NIC’s assistant registrar Sarah Deagle said the college is trying to get the word out about funding assistance.

“We encourage students to speak to our financial advisors to see what financial supports are available that they may be able to access.”

Parker is looking forward to finishing his final level of apprenticeship training and is grateful for the support he has received. He is encouraging any other former youth in care to take advantage of this support.

“A lot of youth in care don’t have role models that have an impact on their lives,” he said. “But if you surround yourself with good people – school counsellors, grandparents and friends – they’ll want the best for you and help you get what you want out of life.”

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