The City's Administration for Children's Services announces a new program to help 50 foster care youth achieve a higher education. NY1's Shannan Ferry has that story from Queens College.
Kaira Batiz said enrolling in college was the proudest moment of her life.
"The possibility of being someone someday, and you know, becoming something, is something that really motivated me," said Batiz.
At age 17, she entered the foster care system while her mom battled mental illness.
Split from her siblings, Batiz continued to juggle high school and a part time job.
"I was struggling with the process of applying to school," said Batiz.
Now, Batiz is a freshman at Queens College pursuing a law career.
She's one of 50 students enrolled in a new city program that helps foster care youth achieve a higher education.
It's a joint initiative between the city's Administration for Children’s Services and the City University of New York.
Students have access to tuition assistance, tutors, counselors, and on-campus housing. Lamar Russell is studying music.
"This is the happiest I've been in my life since I've been here, I mean I was happy, but you know not overly excited," said Russell.
The students are already defying the odds. Organizers said only 10% of young people in foster care go to college, and only 3% of them graduate.
"They have suffered trauma, severe trauma in many cases, they've moved around in their lives, so they need help," said Eric Brettschneider, First Deputy Commissioner for ACS.
Queens College is one of 10 schools involved.
The program also works in partnership with non-profit 'The New York Foundling.'
Participant Raquel Rendongil entered foster care when she was 15, and is on track to become a social worker.
"You can do so much in your life, you can go far, you just gotta keep trying," she said.
The students said along with an education, they also found lifelong friends.