13:03 PM

A Bright Education & Future for Foster Care Youth

L to R Front Row: Morgan Rasmus, Bread of Life; UST's Dr.  Brandon Green; student Angel Jackson; student Antoine McCloud; student Kevin Winberry; Pastor of St. John's Methodist Church Rudy Rasmus; Deborah Brooks, Collection Action for Youth; Megan Davis, Collection Action for Youth; Back Row: Dr. Jim Monaghan, UST's director of Online Learning; student Justin Hayward, student Wesley Alfred, student Ronald Smith; student Chauncey McCloud; Dr. Beena George, UST's Chief Innovation Officer and UST's Dr. Beth BarretteThe University of St. Thomas – Houston (UST) has eight new Celts! They are part of the first pilot program made possible by a partnership between UST, St. John's Methodist Church, and Cisco, the worldwide leader in technology that powers the Internet.

 The new UST students belong to a group that, according to statistics, face profound academic and professional challenges. Studies indicate that within 18 months after foster care youth age out of the system, 40% to 50% become homeless.

"The University of St. Thomas is committed to cultivating and catalyzing opportunities to nourish substantive growth, particularly for those in most need,” Dr. Beena George, UST’s Chief Innovation Officer, said. “We are very pleased to be partnering with at both local and global levels to bring the Cisco Networking Academy to Houston's foster care community."

One of the members of the cohort is 24-year-old Ronald Smith. He believes this is the opportunity that will give his life direction. Until now, Smith had only found employment at dead-end, low paid jobs in the fast-food industry. He knew he wanted to work with computers from an early age.

"At home, before my mom passed away, she used to fix the computer. I would see her and follow her steps, and I realized I liked solving equations and problems, "said Smith.

Through its Networking Academy, Cisco is donating the curriculum that will allow for students to develop a working knowledge of IP addressing schemes and foundational network security. The positions in this field include network administrator and network designer with a potential yearly salary of up to $78,000.

According to Cisco, education should not be limited only to those who can pay for it.

“As community leaders it is our collective responsibility to power an inclusive future for all – where no one is left behind,” said Guy Diedrich, Cisco’s SVP & Global Innovation Officer. “We are proud to partner with UST and St. John Methodist Church to offer this opportunity for disadvantaged members of our community to receive training in high-quality digital skills that are desperately needed in today’s labor market.”

Rudy Rasmus, a pastor at St. John Methodist Church leads three non-profit organizations that empower foster care youth. These organizations will connect the youngsters to be enrolled in the program.

“All these students want is an opportunity,” Rasmus said. “They have been discouraged and disappointed so much in their lives. There is a lower expectation in terms of what life has to offer. We find that the moment an opportunity is presented, a step is taken by the students. They are really ready.”

"UST is always looking for ways to advance the human potential," UST President Richard Ludwick added, "Guided by an imperative to honor the dignity of each human person, we are eager to enter into this pilot. It combines teaching the latest technological skills to students with our impulse for Catholic social teaching. That's a win for the student, society, and all involved.”

If you want to learn more about the program, visit: https://www.stthom.edu/Academics/Cisco