By Melanie Mark
This month, we are celebrating the more than 550 former youths in government care who are benefiting from our choice to invest in their futures.
These young people are now enrolled at public postsecondary institutions throughout B.C., studying to be teachers and business managers, lawyers and early childhood educators. Soon they will contribute to our strong, sustainable economy that will continue to build the best B.C.
We are also celebrating the one-year anniversary of one of the proudest and most life-changing moments of our government to date. In September 2017, Premier John Horgan announced the first-ever provincewide tuition waiver program for former youths in care. And it is already changing lives.
Kyle Isaak, 21, can now focus on getting ahead with his computer science degree.
“Overall, it’s been a big stress reliever and allowed me to focus on my studies,” he says.
Kyle was eligible for the provincial tuition waiver program because he was in foster care for three years, before being adopted at age five. Recently, he transferred from Douglas College to Simon Fraser University, where he is completing his fourth year of studies.
“I’m hoping to get a software engineering job in either a big tech company or maybe a small startup. It would be great to combine it with a job in the medical sector,” Kyle says.
I too am a former youth in care. I am also an intergenerational survivor of the residential school legacy, and the first person in my family to graduate from high school and obtain a university degree. Now, as the first female First Nations cabinet minister to serve in B.C., I am thankful for the support I received in pursuing my education. Education is a great equalizer, just as it will be for these 550 young people.
Many youths in care are often branded for their trauma. They often feel vulnerable and alone.
But the doors to opportunity have been opened for them. Much credit for getting us here today must go to B.C.’s first Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who years ago called for free tuition for former youths in care.
Our government is making new and bold choices with one key focus—that people are at the centre of everything we do.
My colleague, Children and Family Development Minister Katrine Conroy, is ensuring former youths in care have more financial support for rent, child care, and health care by expanding the agreements with young adults program.
We’re investing in the futures of former youths in care because it’s the right thing to do. They have had enough injustice. Now it’s time to support them to thrive and reach their full potential. This is only the beginning of us opening doors together.