After spending two years in foster care and becoming a ward of the court, Miranda Mizla (below) realized a career in social work would give her the opportunity to empower social change in her community and Wayne State University was the place to do just that. For Miranda, a bonus to receiving the specialized urban Detroit training she desired from the School of Social Work, was the innovative CHAMPS program designed to help her throughout her warrior journey.
May is National Foster Care Month, a time to recognize that we can all play a part in ensuring the success of the over 13,000 youth from foster care in the state of Michigan. For students from foster care obtaining a quality education is difficult. They often live in areas with high levels of poverty, which means attending under-funded, low achieving schools. Youth from foster care also struggle with housing insecurity that results in changing residences an average of three times per year. These are just a few of the factors that contribute to youth from foster care being twice as likely to repeat a grade and half as likely to graduate from high school in five years when compared to their non-foster care peers. Even with these difficulties, many students from foster care manage to continue their educational pursuits beyond high school, but only 3 percent are able to finish college with a bachelor's degree by the age of 25. The CHAMPS programs at Wayne State aims to change that.
CHAMPS, Champions Aspiring to Make Pathways to Success, is a college access and retention program for youth ages 18- 26 who have "aged out" of the child welfare system and/or juvenile justice system and are enrolled undergraduate students at Wayne State. Since 2011, CHAMPS has been housed in School of Social Work and has worked to increase college access and improve the graduation rates of youth in Southeast Michigan. Students participating in CHAMPS are provided with the three C’s: coaching, confidence, and career preparation. Miranda took advantage of the supports provided by CHAMPS and its staff, including Program Director Judith Wineman and Campus Coach Marla Garmo. “CHAMPS helped me in a variety of ways, from life coaching and academic support, to financial assistance when an emergency arose. All of this and more from CHAMPS helped me achieve my goal of obtaining a BSW degree,” stated Miranda. “In addition, CHAMPS staff constantly reaches out to see how I am doing and if there is anything I need. This makes me feel important and welcome.” Throughout her time at the University, Miranda found support in her fellow CHAMP participants as well and frequently attended annually held CHAMPS open house events, graduation celebrations, mixers and drop-ins.
Earlier this month, Miranda joined the Social Work Warrior Community of over 13,000 alumni with the attainment of her BSW degree. For Miranda, a degree in social work was a natural step after joining the Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative while in foster care. This Initiative connected her with the national Jim Casey Opportunities Initiative and provided her with the opportunity to travel and participate in state and national speaking engagements. “I knew I wanted to become a social worker after spending the majority of my time with these professionals while advocating for change on local and national levels. My foundation in social work has provided me with a real advantage and understanding of how individuals, communities and systems work,” noted Miranda. Next on the horizon for Miranda is the start of her MSW degree at Wayne State with a concentration in Innovation in Community, Policy and Leadership (I-CPL) and specialization in Community and Leadership. Miranda plans to work with young adults upon graduation.
Starting in fall 2020, CHAMPS will change locations and will move to the University’s Student Success division in the Student Center. Learn more about CHAMPS.