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History of Fostering Scholars

The UNLV Fostering Scholars Program began due to the recognition and understanding that students who have a history of foster care during their lifetimes may have different experiences and needs than a traditional college student. Once the NSHE Foster Youth Success Initiative began moving forward, the next logical step for Nevada was to launch a campus-based support program for students who had experienced foster care. UNLV has the largest student population in Nevada and has the most diverse student population in the nation! UNLV was chosen to launch the first campus-based support program for students who had experienced foster care. In 2020, UNLV was awarded a grant for dedicated staff to support students who had experienced foster care. During the Spring of 2021, the candidate search committee which included students who had experienced foster care selected Heather Richardson as the UNLV Fostering Scholars Program Coordinator. Ms. Richardson has 16 years of experience within the Clark County child welfare system advocating for young people as a caseworker, supervisor, grant officer, educational liaison, legislation, and in administration. In addition to her professional experience, Ms. Richardson also has lived experience as both a child removed from her parents here in Clark County, and as a relative caregiver for her two youngest sisters after their removal. Despite these obstacles, Ms. Richardson went on to become a two-time alumna of UNLV (B.A. 2004; MSW 2011) and a successful mother of 5 children.


The UNLV Fostering Scholars program strives to support college students who have previously experienced foster care during their transition to university life and throughout their time at UNLV. The program aims to create an inclusive and welcoming network for participants. It is through enhancing our student’s sense of both independence and connectedness, retention and graduation rates of participants will improve. UNLV Fostering Scholars’ goal is to ensure students with a history of foster care involvement have the skills and tools necessary to transform their university experience into a meaningful career which will last a lifetime.


The UNLV Fostering Scholars Program is a campus-based community support network with dedicated programming to support students who have experienced foster care in pursuing a degree from UNLV. This program is student-led based on best practices and is the first of its kind in the state of Nevada. The UNLV Fostering Scholars Program draws together resources from across the institution, the local community, Clark County, and the state of Nevada to help address the educational, social, emotional, physical, and financial needs of UNLV students with a history of foster care experience. The UNLV Fostering Scholars Program acts as a single point of contact for students.

The UNLV Fostering Scholars Program partners with the Clark County Department of Family Services, Clark County Social Services, NSHE, Children’s Advocacy Alliance, iFoster Jobs, and other state and local agencies to raise awareness of UNLV staff and other community partners regarding the needs of students who have a history of foster care experiences. Fostering Scholars is also working to increase the awareness among current and former foster youth that higher education is an attainable goal financially due to the funding resources for former foster youth, as well as the support available to them at UNLV by the Fostering Scholars program.


  • Provide personalized assistance and support with educational goals, financial aid, emergency financial assistance, daily needs, and all necessary resources
  • Empower program participants with personal, academic, and professional development resources including assistance with finding a job, housing, resume building, etc
  • Ensure scholars can take advantage of all UNLV has to offer, both inside and outside the classroom (i.e. link to clubs & activities on campus and off-campus)
  • Provide a welcoming environment to support achievement for students of all identities as they transition into university life
  • Connect students to communities to boost support, a sense of belonging, growing sense of community, and purpose
  • Facilitate and enhance student learning and engagement

Program Successes and Achievements

In just the first 90 days of the program, the UNLV Fostering Scholars program has seen amazing success. The following measurable outcomes have occurred with our student population who had a history of foster care:

  • Three (3) students had their financial aid reinstated through assistance with their financial aid appeal
  • Two (2) students have been referred for textbook assistance
  • Six (6) students have been referred for emergency financial assistance, by coordinating with 3 community partners, which ensured these students had stable housing
  • One (1) student was successfully placed into campus housing when their home was no longer a viable placement option. Fostering Scholars conducted a “basic needs drive” to assist the student with items necessary for their dorm room
  • Requested by child welfare Judge Stephanie Charter to be involved with the OPPLA
  • Review Panel for young people aging out of foster care
  • Requested to collaborate with Senator Jackie Rosen’s office