School of Education receives Michigan Department of Human Services grant for nearly $25,000

January 31, 2011

The Save Our Children Coalition (SOCC), a project of the University of Michigan-Dearborn's School of Education, recently received a grant for nearly $25,000 from the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS). The grant will be utilized to continue the expansion and development of SOCC's UTOOLS, a program that began as a pilot in 2010 and provides Detroit foster youth with enrichment experiences that build academic and life skills and productive habits of mind.

UM-Dearborn's SOCC focuses on raising public awareness and mobilizing community support for foster children and youth while providing educational programming for foster youth, families and professionals. Katie Page Sander, a licensed master social worker, was recently named director of SOCC. Before joining SOCC she spent 13 years in a variety of clinical and supervisory child welfare positions in Michigan. In addition, Page Sander brings a global perspective to her work, having worked as a volunteer in a child welfare position in Bolivia. She has a B.A. in Sociology and an M.S.W. from the University of Michigan.

"We are thrilled to have someone with Katie's experience leading SOCC and working with Mesut Duran, associate dean and associate professor of technology, to lead UTOOLS," said Edward Silver, dean, School of Education, UM-Dearborn. "This grant will allow us to enhance the work of this important program, which provides Detroit youth with the 'tools' they need to be successful and will make a dynamic impact on the path of their lives."

The concept of UTOOLS was developed with the collaboration of Vista Maria and Black Family Development, both non-profit counseling and support organizations and the Wayne County Department of Human Services. Contributing to the program design and pilot were faculty from UM-Dearborn's School of Education, Admissions & Financial Aid, Athletics, Career Services, and the Environmental Interpretive Center. The positive outcomes from the pilot-assessed through the School of Education-contributed significantly to the DHS decision to fund the project.

UTOOLS is currently working to guide 50 ninth-grade Detroit foster youth on a trajectory toward high-school completion with a solid preparation for post-secondary education and training through a series of monthly, all-day Saturday sessions. Program activities take place throughout the UM-Dearborn campus.

"The current group of UTOOLS students is showing us how much they value the time spent with UM-Dearborn faculty as well as each other. They are building trust and relationships amongst each other and caring adults, which is critical to success. We are thrilled that the Michigan Department of Human Services has recognized the importance of UTOOLS with this grant and are dedicated to expanding the program to impact more foster youth in metropolitan Detroit," said Page Sander.

Work is ongoing to expand the program to include mentoring and academic enrichment that would allow students from UM-Dearborn and other neighboring institutions to work with the UTOOLS students.

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