News & Events

Six Youth Beat the Odds and Enroll in College

Only 10% of Foster Children Go to College. Well, We've Got Six!

Nationwide, only 10% of foster children go to college, and merely 3% graduate. So, we are thrilled that six of our foster kids are entering college this fall!

Friends of Leake & Watts may remember one of our college-bound youth, Sohel. He spoke of his remarkable journey at our 2015 Gala.

At the age of 14, Sohel was left on his own, on a city street, after arriving in the U.S. from Bangladesh. Leake & Watts found him a loving foster home and helped him enroll in a preparatory school for English learners, where he became a star student. Now, he’s received a full scholarship to attend St. Lawrence University this fall.

And Sohel’s story gets better!  He’s soon to be adopted by his foster dad. Now that’s what we call great news!

Sohel’s journey proves that with the right supports, vulnerable children can rise above adversity and achieve great things.

Nikolas has another good story to tell.

Nicholas was the featured speaker at our Spring Benefit. At 14, Nikolas and his siblings were placed in foster care. He thought it would just be living in a stranger's home, isolated and alone. But he discovered that wasn't the case.

"You get a Case Worker who talks with you, stays with you, is there by your side. They really help you out, right from the start," Nikolas says.

Now a high school senior, Nikolas has accepted a $40,000 scholarship to attend SUNY-Fredonia in the fall—a laudable achievement, particularly since circumstances have forced Nikolas’ family to live in a shelter. Nikolas was able to pursue his dreams thanks to strong supports provided by Leake & Watts.

Here’s a short video interview of Nikolas at the Spring Benefit. Below is a copy of his speech.

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Nikolas. It is my pleasure to be here tonight.

“I was fourteen when I and my younger brother and sister were placed in foster care. We’d been under supervision by the City for a year or so. For the most part, we tried to put on a fake show that we were ok, but we weren’t. You could tell my mom and dad were drunk or high. And there wasn’t much food. My brother and sister and I would wait on the food stamps at the end of each month. And it was really tough when things got wild—when my parents fought physically and there was yelling and screaming all night.

“Eventually, my father left—for good. Then, my mom took it real hard—walking around like a zombie. She started taking drugs more and more, messing around with the wrong people. We never had food in the house. That’s when we were placed in care. When you hear about foster care, you think you are going to somebody else’s house and that you are just on your own. I didn’t know that you get a Case Worker who talks with you, stays with you, is there by your side. They really help you out. Lucky for us, we were placed with my grandma. We were alright with her—and I got a lot of help from my Caseworker and others at Leake & Watts.

“They helped us right from the start. I have to admit I hadn’t been going to school much for a little while. I wasn’t getting any sleep at night and I was pissed off at stuff. It was freshman year for me. When we moved far from my school, my Caseworker was able to get me into Cardozo H.S. near my grandma. Cardozo is in a good neighborhood and a better school than I was at before. Now I’m going to graduate this June.

“There are many people at Leake & Watts that have helped me along the way the past few years. Right from the beginning, they helped us see my mom at visits. We’d all sit down together and talk. It wasn’t amazing at first, but it was a start—and I wanted to stay connected. They help you do all sorts of things I didn’t expect. They didn’t just help me sign up and do the paperwork for my driver’s permit. Ms. McKoy, one of the staff, even went with me to the DMV to get it.

“Now I’m trying to figure out where I’m going to college. I’ve been accepted at a couple SUNY and CUNYs. Ms. McKoy also helped me do all my financial aid forms. I don’t know what I would’ve done without the help.

“Really, there have been so many that have helped me out. My Case Worker, Ms. Mathieson, is great too. I like her because she is honest and straight up. She doesn’t sugar coat things and tells me like it is. Honestly, I have no idea what I would have done without Ms. McCoy, Ms. Mathieson and Ms. Campbell, her supervisor, being there for me—especially this year. They have been great to me and consistently remind me how much my life is worth. Their belief in me has been motivation for me to work so hard and succeed in life.

“It’s been a rough road for a few years, but things are better now. My dad is clean and my brother and sister and I are living with him in a shelter. Now, we’re getting help from Leake & Watts with finding an apartment. Soon, we should be moving. My mom is still a big issue. She’s had several heart attacks and is in a rehab. I feel like she’s never going to be the same. But one day, when I’m older, I hope I can help her.

“At first I was upset and sad about coming into care, but it made me open up my eyes. It helped me see that I can do better for myself. Leake & Watts has really had my back the whole time. Most of all, I know that I always have someone to talk to—to turn to if I ever need something. I know that I can give them a call. That is the best part.

“Thank you so much for being here tonight and for supporting Leake & Watts. You coming here is supporting me and so many others that walk in my shoes every day.”