The University of Georgia is helping the state’s universities and technical colleges better support students who have experienced foster care or homelessness through a contribution from the AT&T Foundation.

In all, the AT&T Foundation contributed $25,000 to help Embark Georgia increase college access and retention for youth who have experienced foster care or homelessness through leadership training and direct student support.

First, 16 professionals representing 12 schools from across the University System of Georgia (USG) and Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) completed The Fostering Success Coach Training leadership development course on Feb. 26-28 at the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development through the Embark Georgia network.

“This training was a breath of fresh air,” said Shawntell Phoenix-Martin, director of counseling services at Savannah State University. “It will change my outlook and the way I interact with students. The power of helping students have more control will last them a lifetime. I am very grateful for the opportunity.”

Developed at Western Michigan University, this leadership training equips campus leaders to help students assess and prioritize their needs, identify resources available to them and develop action plans to thrive in and out of the classroom.

“This training equipped me to establish more structure when it comes to dealing with students,” said Bonita Jefferies Jenkins, special populations coordinator at Augusta Technical College. “They have provided me with tools to help me deal with students’ challenges and help them come up with solutions so they can develop their life skills.”

Embark Georgia, founded and run by the Fanning Institute, is a statewide leadership network of higher education, k-12 and child welfare professionals who provide leadership and support for youth who have experienced foster care or homelessness and are enrolled in or interested in attending any public postsecondary educational institution in Georgia.

Since its founding in 2012, Embark Georgia has established a designated point of contact (DPOC) for students at every USG and TCSG institution. Georgia was the first state to do this for both foster and homeless youth.

“Learning tools for coaching and supporting students will enable these participants to identify needs and challenges from the student’s perspective,” said Lori Tiller, Fanning Institute public service associate and Embark Georgia co-network director. “This will increase the leadership capacity of the DPOC to develop strong networks for students on their campuses who have experienced foster care or homelessness.”

Along with the leadership training, AT&T’s contribution enabled Embark Georgia to provide emergency assistance for college students in Georgia who have experienced foster care and/or homelessness.

A total of 18 students from eight different USG and TCSG institutions received financial assistance to help with needs like glasses, rent, food, computers and more.

“We appreciate AT&T’s support of Embark Georgia and the University of Georgia,” said David Meyers, Fanning Institute public service associate and Embark Georgia co-network director. “These schools are using both the direct assistance and leadership training to connect youth to resources that will help them achieve their educational goals.”

For more information on Embark Georgia, go to

Writer: Charlie Bauder; 706-542-7039;
Contact: David Meyers; 706-542-5062;