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May 14, 2024

Getting involved helped Spencer Nemecek succeed.

This year, more than 23,000 children will age out of the U.S. foster care system. Only around 3% will obtain a college degree – and now JCCC graduate Spencer Nemecek is one of them.

From the very beginning, Spencer was motivated to succeed in college.

“I didn’t want to be another statistic,” he said. “I didn’t want to be another person lost in the numbers of people who age out of foster care that don’t end up living a life that is fulfilling and living up to our potential.”

Melanie Roberts, a JCCC counselor, says youths aging out of foster care face several barriers to higher education.

“The majority of these youth are on their own,” she said. “They lack a stable support system, which makes navigating finances and their education difficult. Many work full-time, and it’s tough to balance school and work.”

Pete Belk, director of Recruitment and Enrollment Strategy, agrees. “Students aging out of the foster care system have endured many obstacles throughout their life,” he says. “As they embark on their future, attending college should not be an unsurmountable barrier.”

Former foster students are eligible for a state tuition waiver, but more support is needed. Eager to make a difference, Melanie took a sabbatical to examine how to better assist former foster care students.

“The research shows having a point of contact is important,” she said. “Someone who the student can go to for help navigating financial aid, resources, and their career path.”

JCCC’s counselors seem well-equipped for such a role. In fact, one counselor had already set the process in motion.

Find your people with on-campus involvement

Spencer enrolled at JCCC after aging out of the foster care system.

“I chose JCCC because I had heard great things about the College from many people,” he said. “They told me such it is a great place to start out, with smaller and more intimate classroom sizes and intentional professor that seek the best for the students.

Through the local organization FosterAdoptConnect, he was paired with a mentor, now-retired JCCC counselor Dave Ellis.

Dave became Spencer’s point of contact, helping him acclimate to college life and find opportunities to get involved. Finding his on-campus fit turned out to be key for Spencer and his success.

“Through a community called Saint Paul’s Outreach, the Catholic campus ministry, I have found a group of people that have cared for me and seen me as I really am,” said Spencer. “I am so grateful for the opportunity to have met them at JCCC.

Spencer’s time at JCCC was a resounding success—he is graduating with his Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts and a strong network of support.

“The best thing about JCCC is the people, the communities, and clubs and organizations,” he said. “I really love how active we can be outside of our classes and can feel welcomed, seen, and heard.”

Your right community is out there 

After his experience beating the odds, Spencer aspires give back to his community.

“My plan after graduation is to work as a youth minister and eventually go on to open a foster care ministry to care for children in need, just like I was,” he said.

As Melanie’s research has shown, a support system is crucial for students like Spencer. While it can be difficult to start a conversation, Spencer says the end result is worth it.

“Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk with people,” he said. “The right community and friend group might just change your life. I know it did mine!”

Take advantage of JCCC’s resource-rich institution. With caring counselors, endless involvement opportunities, and a campus dedicated to your success, you’ll thrive as a Cavalier.

Make your tomorrow happen.

Enroll today!