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Foster Youth Support

Columbus State: Foster Youth Support

Enrolled students may join the Columbus State Scholar Network (CSSN)

Are you a current or former foster youth or kinship youth? Are you admitted and enrolled for the current academic year? Are you looking for assistance navigating college, support, leadership experiences and/or opportunities to get involved? Then make sure you register for Columbus State’s Scholar Network!

Please note: If you have questions about the Columbus State Scholar Network, don’t hesitate to contact Katrina de los Santos by email at or by phone at (614) 287-2861.

Frequently Asked Questions (and more!)

What are the current academic year Scholar Requirements & Expectations?

  • Be an enrolled student at Columbus State for Autumn and/or Spring semester(s)
  • Have lived experience within foster care or kinship care
  • Meet monthly with your assigned mentor
  • Participate in monthly Lunch and Learn Workshops
  • Join TRiO Student Support Services , COMPASS and/or Columbus Promise  meet with academic coaches on a monthly basis
  • Complete academic and mentoring accountability forms
  • Follow a completion plan to graduation

How do I apply to become a Scholar?

Online applications are being accepted now for the current academic year!

Step One:
Log onto Cougar Connect (, create an account, and join the Scholar Network portal. You can apply on the portal or complete the online application via this link:

Step Two:
Applicants meeting the requirements of the program will receieve a welcome email from a Scholar Network Coordinator to schedule a New Member Orientation 

Step Three:
Attend monthly Lunch and Learn Workshops that occur monthly on Fridays from 12:00pm-1:30pm at the Columbus State Conference Center. Lunch and Learn meeting dates are located on the Scholar Network Cougar Connect Page.


What is the Columbus State Scholar Network (CSSN)?

The Columbus State Scholar Network (CSSN) provides students with lived experience within foster care or kinship care with a network of support during their college journey. Columbus State’s Scholar Network includes a new member orientation, ongoing mentoring, monthly Lunch & Learn workshops peer-to-peer support, and other campus resources.
Students who actively participate as Scholars are eligible to receive stipends and other valuable incentives to help with their college success.

The core objectives of the program are designed to support students in building community, developing skills and gaining the confidence needed to succeed in college; students will:

  • Develop life-skills 
  • Build a community of support
  • Practice college success strategies
  • Engage in campus activities

Additionally, getting involved in the Columbus State Scholar Network will also build personal and professional skills that are necessary to succeed in your future career.


Postsecondary Ohio Reach Designation

The Columbus State Scholar Network has receieved the honary Ohio Reach Postsecondary designation. This desgination is awarded to those campuses meeting criteria that depict their support of students with experience in foster care or kinship. Ohio Reach is a network of professionals, advocates, and students across Ohio determined to support former foster youth on their education journey. Ohio Reach, administered through the Ohio Children’s Alliance, provides resources to institutions of higher education, child welfare agencies, and foster care alumni enrolled in higher education to support their academic success.

What does the Scholar Network value?

Holistic Support for Scholars

We value students and will carefully identify services to assist students in their personal and academic journey.

Mentoring and Engagement for Scholars

We value engaging students at every level of their college experience through support and coaching.

Achievement and Recognition for Scholars

We value achievement and recognize students who persist and rise to meet challenges in order to accomplish goals.

Please note:
All programs are held on the Columbus campus.
Transportation is provided to all of the off-campus activities

What are the benefits of becoming a Scholar?

  • Hands on support with Enrollment/Registration and a specialized New Student Orientation experience that caters to support the unique needs and resources of former foster youth and kinship youth
  • Free registration for all events
  • Ongoing mentorship support from peer mentors with lived experience within the child welfare system. 
  • Hollistic academic support through TRiO Student Support Services , COMPASS and/or Columbus Promise
  • Monthly Lunch & Learn Workshops
  • Leadership experience
  • Connections with peers 
  • Connection to college and community resources (Housing, Food, ODJFS Benefits, Child Care, ETV, Bridges and more)
  • Free meals, giveaways, care packages and program workbook
  • Free monthly bus passes and gas cards
  • Eligible to apply for the Dale Gresson "I Am One" Scholarship for Scholar Network students
  • Eligible participants qualify for Ohio Reach emergency funding and to apply for the Ohio Reach Scholarship
  • Eligible participants may be eligible for stipends and other incentives 

What is the Scholar Network New Student Orientation

The Scholar Network New Student Orientation is your ticket to ensuring a smooth transition during your academic and personal journey at Columbus State Community College. Adjusting from high school to college, or even from one college to another, can be very challenging. The orientation is a mandatory component of the CSSN program and will help you build the necessary skills to acclimate to college life and learn about the resources available for college students with lived experience within the child welfare system. It is key to making new friends, building a network of support and getting a head-start to a great school year! Students will also attend a campus tour, campus resource fair and schedule classes at the Columbus State New Student Orientation. This takes place annual in July in accordance with the Columbus State New Student Orientations. 

Scholars who join the program after the Scholar Network New Student Orientation will attend a New Member Orientation with one of the Scholar Network Student Coordinators.


What are the Lunch & Learn Workshops?

Workshops are hosted monthly for Scholars. Scholars are provided with lunch and participate in a knowledge-building workshop featuring hands-on activities to reinforce skills needed for success in college and life. The most important aspect of the workshops is Scholar attendance. The program is called a "network" because it focuses on developing connections with peers, Columbus State resources and community partners. During the workshops, Scholars will have the opportunity to strengthen friendships and learn about student success opportunities. Workshops are scheduled once each month. 

Please Note: Other activities will be included on the CSSN autumn & spring semester calendars including campus events and off-campus socials.

What is mentoring and why is it a requirement of the Columbus State Scholar Network?

Scholars are matched up with a mentor during their first semester in the program, often through one of the college's mentorship programs. Mentors support Scholars for the entire academic year (or longer). Mentoring is a two-way mutually beneficial learning situation where the participants provide advice, share knowledge and experiences, and teach one another using a self-discovery approach.

Partner Mentoring Programs:

The Male Access Network (MAN) Initiative is a program that focuses on character-building and leadership development. The program is intended for male identified students at Columbus State who are interested in getting involved on-campus, connecting with other Columbus State men and receiving mentorship opportunities.

Women's Connection focuses on fostering character building, leadership development as well as personal, intellectual and relational growth of participants. Opportunities are provided for students to network and build relationships with their peers and employee mentors. Participants engage in visible activities on campus and the Columbus community while accessing resources to make strategic decisions about their future.

To learn more about these programs, please visit: Student Engagement and Belonging Campus Life Programs

Additional mentoring programs offered at Columbus State:

First Generation One Trailblazers: GOT Online Mentors can help point you in the right direction. As a first generation student, you can sign up for an online mentor. Once connected, you can feel free to ask your mentor via email any questions you may have about being a college student. Further, your GOT Online Mentor will be your advocate while you are at Columbus State.To sign up for a GOT Online Mentor or to learn more, email and indicate that you're interested in having a mentor. One of our GOT Contacts will email you right back!

Career Services: Columbus State's Career Services Mentorship Program is designed to provide you with a formal channel to develop relationships with professionals employed in your field of interest! By joining the program and receiving a career mentor, you can gather information related to your chosen career, get a realistic view of the daily tasks, rewards, and challenges, establish an ongoing relationship with a professional in your field, and improve your communication skills. Contact for more information. 

 How did the Columbus State Scholar Program begin?

During spring 2014, a group of employees gathered to create S.P.A.R.K: Supporting foster youth to Prepare, Achieve, Realize and Keep their educational goals within reach. The S.P.A.R.K. members have been developing plans for the infrastructure to help current and former foster youth improve their academic success, retention, and completion rates. The S.P.A.R.K. team launched the NEW Columbus State Scholar Network for the first year in the Autumn of 2015; ten Scholars completed the program in May 2016 and we had over 50 students complete the program in May 2024! We expect a record number of participants during the current academic year!

S.PA.R.K. Contacts and Off-Campus Resources

Student Engagement and Belonging

Katrina de los Santos


Scholar Network Ambassador Coordinators


D'Tron Driessen

Adiatu Al-Damen (TAY iFoster AmeriCorp Coach)



Student Central

Misty Mahefkey


Financial Aid

Laura Ziegler

Zachariah Marburger




Student Advocacy Center

Augustine Munobe


Student Support Services (TRiO)

Stacey Rogers

Carla Burnett

Dave Ewans




Adjunct in Social Sciences

Kimberly Eckhart

Academic Recovery Coaching

Rebecca Clarridge


OSU Bound Program

Chaka Wilson



Morgan Becker


Justice / Safety / Legal Studies

William Murray IV


Off-Campus Resources

etv logo 

Ohio Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Program

The Ohio Education and Training Voucher Program is a federally-funded, state-administered program designed to help youth who were in foster care after the age of sixteen. Students may receive up to $5000 a year for qualified school related expenses. Funding is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis to eligible students. Applicants must complete the ETV application which includes documentation each semester that is sent directly from the school to ETV confirming enrollment, the cost of attendance (COA) and unmet need.

Please visit this link to apply for ETV

Questions? Columbus State Students may contact Amanda Davis, Educational Training Voucher Ohio (ETV) at

Columbus State students in the process of completing an ETV application, please submit your ETV Financial Aid Verification Form and Cashiers Form directly to the Columbus State Financial Aid at for completion.


federal logo

Foster Care Transition Toolkit

The U.S. Department of Education released the Foster Care Transition Toolkit to inspire and support current and former foster youth pursuing college and career opportunities. The Toolkit includes tips and resources intended to help foster youth access and navigate social, emotional, educational and skills barriers as they transition into adulthood. While the toolkit is written for foster youth, it’s also meant to be a resource for caseworkers, care givers, teachers and mentors to help foster youth. Please access the Foster Care Transition Toolkit here:

Scholar House III

Scholar House III Flyer

Affordable Housing For Former Foster Youth
The Columbus Scholar House III is affordable housing for former foster youth, ages 18-23, currently or seeking to be enrolled at a Higher Education Institution.

Scholar House III is currently seeking applicants, is conveniently located a mile away from Columbus State, and includes 30 fully furnished apartment units. For more information and to apply please select THIS LINK. If you have any questions about the application process please contact Gavin Eberhardt at, 614-403-3944 . The Columbus State liaison for Scholar House III is Augustine Munobe at

bridges logo


Bridges is a voluntary program available to young adults who left foster care in Ohio at ages 18, 19 or 20 and who are in school, working, participating in an employment program, or have a medical condition that prevents them from going to school or working. The program can help with rental support and more.

For more information and to apply please vist this link



ohio reach logo

Ohio Reach

Ohio Reach is a network of professionals, advocates, and students across the State of Ohio determined to support former foster youth on their higher education journey. They provide resources to institutions of higher education, child welfare agencies, and foster care alumni enrolled in higher education to support their academic success. 

Ohio Reach Emergency Fund

Ohio Reach Scholarship

Ohio Reach Resource Guide for Former Foster Youth