National Foster Care Month: Texas A&M University–San Antonio F.A.T.E. Program Supports Foster Students

Tuesday, 05 24 2022

A&M-SA celebrates continued support of foster students and those that provide support during National Foster Care Month 

SAN ANTONIO – May is National Foster Care Month and Texas A&M University-San Antonio (A&M-San Antonio) celebrates the more than 60 current students who have been touched by the foster care system and the personnel who provide support. A&M-San Antonio’s F.A.T.E. Center partners with students to navigate college life as well as local and state agencies to help students fulfill the goal of graduation. 

Funded by the Texas Legislature, A&M-San Antonio is part of a partnership with The University of Texas at San Antonio, Alamo Colleges, Child Advocates San Antonio (CASA), and the Bexar County Court System. The partnership is part of the Bexar County Fostering Education and Success (BCFES) pilot. BCFES is a collaborative pilot program that aims to improve college graduation rates for foster care alumni.

 A&M-San Antonio was awarded the grant from the Texas Legislature for two more year in the fall of 2021. As part of the grant agreement, each educational institution must create a center as a resource for foster students. After first receiving funding in Fall of 2019, A&M-San Antonio’s F.A.T.E. Center was created to support student success through academic coaching, education through the 7 Life Domains, and by enhancing self-advocacy skills to create strong relationships on campus and within the community. 

The F.A.T.E. Center’s staff, which includes a foster care support center coordinator; foster youth liaison for the State of Texas; a recruitment coordinator; and an assistant program coordinator, who oversees F.A.T.E. peer mentoring, currently serves a total of 66 foster students, two of which are graduating this May. The center also has five peer mentors who work directly with students to provide guidance and support in accessing resources they may need while in college. 

“Our peer mentoring staff are very valuable in connecting with those students and making them feel this is a comfortable place they can come talk to somebody,” said Kimberley Nanez, executive director for student success. “Having students who understand their situations or have gone through similar things they can relate to is powerful.” 

Michelle Calleros, who serves as a peer mentor and is a foster student, had been in and out of the foster system since her early teens and was homeless and living out of her car for her first couple of semesters in college. Calleros was the program’s first peer mentor and has provided support for fellow foster students in navigating the college experience. 

“I have the chance to give back. I have worked with 19- and 20-year-olds as well as 30 and over. I know I am helping them because we are different from other students. People come into our office confident they will get help and what they need to be successful and eventually where they want to be in life,” said Calleros. “We help them transition from where they were before and into college life. They come from different backgrounds. When they start college, they meet different people. They transition into independent and strong people.” 

In addition to providing emergency funds, covering items such as gas, groceries, cell phone bills, utility bills, or other challenges that may persuade foster students from attending or staying in college, the center also provides a safe space for students to access supplies, nonperishable food, hygiene products, as well as to study, do homework, or relax. 

A&M-San Antonio is also a Supervised Independent Living (SIL) site. Students are assigned an academic coach and a success mentor to help them through their academic journey to graduation. Young adults who are in the foster system who opt to stay in care through the age of 21 can have the State of Texas pay for housing and a meal plan as long as they stay enrolled at the university. 

Calleros, who graduates in December 2022 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in International Management and hopes to pursue a master’s in business or marketing at A&M-San Antonio, said the program and the university have had an indelible impact on her life. 

“The program has provided me the opportunity to meet many people and students,” said Calleros. “Through my job as a peer mentor, I get to work many enriching events. The campus is beautiful. Classes are smaller. The staff and faculty have been great and want to see you succeed. It such a friendly environment.” 

“Students in the program go on to big things and become professionals in their respective fields,” continued Calleros. “You would never know they grew up in the foster system.”

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About Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Established as a stand-alone university in 2009, Texas A&M University-San Antonio is a comprehensive four-year public university that reflects the culturally diverse, heritage-rich community it serves. Situated on nearly 700 acres in south San Antonio, the University offers 33 undergraduate degrees and 16 graduate degrees to nearly 7,000 students. A&M-San Antonio is home to the Henry G. Cisneros Institute for Emerging Leaders and the Cyber Engineering Technology/Cyber Security Research Center. The University holds the Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) designation and is one of only 24 higher education institutions in the U.S. to have received the Seal of Excelencia certification from Excelencia in Education for its support of Latino student success. More than 75 percent of A&M-SA students identify as Hispanic, and 73 percent are the first in their family to attend college. A&M-San Antonio is a military-embracing institution; in 2020, Military Times ranked the University No. 35 in the nation for Best for Vets: Colleges.” Visit tamusa.edu for more information. #onamission