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Wake Tech aims to boost foster-care kids

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Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. – An estimated 20,000 children in the United States age out of foster care each year, often at age 18, and many of them encounter problems ranging

from alcohol and drug abuse to incarceration and homelessness.

To better serve foster-care kids, the Wake Tech Foundation has launched a campaign to raise $3 million to $5 million in endowment funds over three to five years.

That effort is one of several by the foundation to step up its fundraising, which supports scholarships and financial assistance for students, faculty and staff.

The foundation, for example, has just enlisted Nationwide in a new affinity program that will provide discounted auto insurance rates for alumni.

That program could pave the way for Wake Tech in several years to seek support from targeted alumni, says Mort Congleton, vice president of college development at Wake Tech and executive director of the Wake Tech Foundation.

While Wake Tech has contact information for roughly 150,000 alumni who took courses for a certificate, diploma or associate’s degree from any of its curriculum programs, the school has never solicited contributions from alumni, Congleton says.

“Since we have never contacted our alumni,” he says, the affinity program will provide a way of “giving back to them,” possible setting the stage for the school to ask for individual contributions in three to five years.

The foundation also is considering the possibility of conducting its first-ever capital campaign in 2012 to coincide with for the school’s 50th anniversary, Congleton says.

With corporations generating most of the private support the school receives, the foundation raises roughly $1.3 million to $1.6 million a year, roughly half of it in in-kind support.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the foundation managed $4.2 million in endowment, restricted funds and unrestricted funds, up from $2.4 million three years ago.

With over 61,000 students in its most recent school year, including 19,000 enrolled in its curriculum programs and the remainder in continuing-education classes, Wake Tech receives 55 percent of its $80 million annual budget from the state, 19 percent from Wake County, 15 percent from student tuition and fees, and 11 percent from federal grants and financial aid.

The state supports salaries at the school, while the county supports operations.

The goal of the new foster-care initiative is to provide support for foster-care kids who graduate from high school in Wake County and enroll in Wake Tech’s two-year associate-degree program, and then help them transfer to four-year schools, says Congleton.

Roughly 20 to 25 foster kids graduate from Wake high schools each year, Congleton says.

Chaired by Jim Holmes, a partner with Raleigh insurance brokerage TriSure, the campaign also will seek individual sponsorships of foster-care students at Wake Tech.

One donor already has agreed to sponsor five students a year for three years.

In addition to providing scholarships, Wake Tech will use funds raised in the campaign to help students find federal and state financial assistance.

And as an early partner in Middle Class Express, a Wake County initiative that aims to assign life coaches to 1,000 people living in or near poverty, each of the foster-care students at Wake Tech has been assigned a life coach.

The coaches and a counselor assigned by Wake Tech will work with the five students to ensure their academic success.

And members of the committee Holmes chairs will serve as mentors for the students on financial, transportation, housing and other real-world issues.

“Our goal,” says Congleton, “is to work in concert to assist these kids and get them through the system.”

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