Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Hopes for Higher Education: Empowering America's Youth in Foster Care

4th Annual winners of the Maybelline Beauty of Education Awards: Shaune Johnson, Mikki Taylor (Judge, Beauty Editor of Essence magazine); Deborah Sims; Dr. Monica Peek

On February 28th, Lifetime premiered the movie adaptation of ‘America’, based on the novel by E.R. Frank. The movie touched on many issues, such as childhood sexual abuse, children being raised by mothers in a drug addicted environment and youth in the foster care system. At the conclusion of the movie, startling statistics were flashed across the screen: There are a half million youth in the foster care system. Once they age out of the system, only two out of ten will make it. What happens to the eight who don’t make it? They’ll wind up in prison, homeless or dead.

Research has shown that children of color are overrepresented in the foster care system, and are more likely to stay for longer periods of time and less likely to return home or to be adopted.

Deborah Sims, a product of foster care, has made it her life’s mission to help those eight youth who don’t make it. As the founder of Hopes for Higher Education, her organization helps teens that are aging out of the foster care system transition to college.

She states, “As youth age out of foster care they are introduced to an expectation of independence with an unstable foundation in which to build the rest of their lives. Breaking the cycle of out of home care begins with learning new and creative ways to reach your dreams. Hopes for Higher Education aims to develop a support system for youth that networks every available resource in the community to make a new plan… a plan that ends with a successful future.”

Among the organization’s goals for youth in foster care are to increase community awareness of the challenges toward higher education access, develop a community network to provide youth appropriate linkage to resources, create a personal network for youth that includes a long lasting connection to a caring adult, and to engage youth in understanding how to self advocate for their needs.

Deborah was honored on December 4th by Maybelline New York at their beauty brand's fourth annual Beauty of Education awards ceremony. The event was held at Manhattan's classic symbol of expanded mind-power, The New York Public Library. The women were selected through a nomination procedure that began last August with the help of Time Inc. publications People, People en EspaƱol and Essence. Co-hosted by supermodel and Maybelline brand ambassador Tomiko Fraser, the intimate affair paid homage to 10 women that are uplifting their community via educational causes.

Ten female educators from across the country received a $10,000 donation for the program of their choice. Check out the three beautiful African American women above who were all winners of this award! Deborah is pictured above with Shaune Johnson of Girlfriends Talk, Inc., Elmont, NY; Miki Taylor, Beauty Editor, Essence Magazine; and Dr. Monica Peek, founder of an outreach program that educates African-American women on issues of breast health.

For more information, visit Deborah’s site at

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