New Initiative Provides Housing Stability for Great Expectations Students


Thanks to a new initiative funded by the Richard and Leslie Gilliam Foundation, students who have experienced foster care and now face housing instability and homelessness will be eligible for a housing stipend as they pursue their college goals.

More than 30% of former foster youth will have experienced homelessness by the time they are 26 years old. This uncertainty concerning housing obviously creates an obstacle to college success. The Richard and Leslie Gilliam Foundation is addressing this concern holistically, helping to meet basic housing needs so that students enrolled in the VFCCE Great Expectations program in Southwestern Virginia can prioritize their education and training.

Great Expectations students celebrating the announcement of a gift supporting housing stability for Virginia's former foster youth.
VHCC Great Expectations coach, Deborah Ledford, students in the GE program, and Julia Gilliam Sterling, at the GE announcement at Southwest Virginia Community College.

Great Expectations began in 2008 to help Virginia’s foster youth pursue associate degrees and workforce certifications, transfer to four-year colleges and universities, and position themselves for employment and life success. The program helps students overcome barriers to educational attainment, pairing them with coaches who provide guidance and support so they can reach their goals. Nationally, only eight percent of young people who have experienced foster care ever attain any kind of college degree. Great Expectations students have more than doubled that graduation rate.

Through this pilot initiative, the Richard and Leslie Gilliam Foundation will assist students on a pathway to college success. By providing a stipend to find stable housing, mentorship from Great Expectations coaches, and financial literacy tutors, students may focus more on academics and completion of degrees, diplomas, and certificates.

“Our investors know that the barriers to higher education often go beyond traditional financial aid options,” said Jennifer Gentry, Vice Chancellor of Institutional Advancement. “Gifts like this one recognize the challenges faced by many students and help to remove those obstacles so they can achieve their academic goals.”

This initiative will benefit students at these schools:

– Mountain Empire Community College
– Southwest Virginia Community College
– Virginia Highlands Community College