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Graduate student will use grant to study foster children in college

Jacob Okumu, Ohio University resident director for Biddle Hall and resident counselor at the Ohio University Office of Multicultural Student Access and Retention (OMSAR), was presented with the Paul
P. Fidler Research Grant on Oct. 13.

The Paul P. Fidler Research Grant is an initiative developed by the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition to be awarded to one recipient each year. The grant was designed to enable scholarly research that is focused on issues related to college student transitions.

Okumu was awarded a financial stipend and travel to two national conferences to further his research, which studies the jarring transition emancipated foster care youth experience upon entering college.

"We can try to categorize them, but their experiences are very, very unique. They have not had opportunities like many students who have mentors, guardians and a stable family. They navigate through the college experience virtually on their own," said Okumu.

Although Ohio University offers various programs targeted to specific demographics, Okumu realized that there is no program targeted at emancipated youth. As an adviser for the Ohio University College Adjustment Program two years ago, he had the opportunity to counsel three students who had previously lived in foster care, introducing him to their striking reality.

"I hear the same story of lack of a stable family experience, lack of role models in their lives, that they have to literally grow up overnight," said Okumu. "Their stories inspired me to get their story
out there to the rest of the University community and see how as administrators and instructors we can help them succeed in college."

The goal of Okumu's research is to create a functioning model of mentorship that transcends academic advising and is specifically targeted for youth in southern Ohio. He is passionate about instilling in students a sense of purpose and identity in hopes of helping them to develop self-authorship. He desires a program that helps students become responsible human beings.

"I realize that I cannot do this for everybody but since this is a population that needs to break with their traumatic past, they need to start believing in themselves," said Okumu.

Okumu's research will take a year to complete and will then be published in the Journal of The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.