Spent 4 years in Montana's foster care system So how do you go from being a middle school student who attended only 80 days of school to being a successful college student with perfect attendance your senior year? Ask Aurelia Tait! Aurelia, a student at the University of Montana, credits her entry into the foster care system with enlightening her to the wide range of resources available to her to help identify and achieve her academic goals. As a middle school student, Aurelia lived with her grandmother, whom she says didn’t know very much about higher education. It wasn’t until she was placed with a foster family around the time she started high school that college became an option for her future. During this time, Aurelia thrived, receiving the 2009 Montana Foster Care Youth Achievement of the Year Award, achieving Academic All State status in three different sports, and even winning the Spirit of Junior Miss in the Junior Miss pageant in Cutbank! Also during her senior year, Aurelia attended A Step Ahead College Prep Camp at Carrol College. She made such an impression, SAF asked her to return to camp as a Team Leader the following summer. Her mentor writes; “SAF employees greatly appreciated her candor, energy, and team attitude. Nearly as soon as she arrived on the scene, she came an integral part of the department.” Aurelia has a deep commitment to volunteering and leadership. At Cottey College, where she completed her first two years of post-secondary education, she jumped into student government as a freshman representative and took a leadership seminar at school. As a sophomore, she served as a Resident Assistant, working to guide and shape the college careers of her floor-mates and college colleagues. Now a student at University of Montana, Aurelia continues to find success at academics, has a job at the local McDonald’s, and volunteers at a nursing home in Dillon, where she plays bingo and paints the nails of the residents there. She plans to complete her Bachelor’s degree and become a Kindergarten teacher. As Aurelia’s mentor describes, “Aurelia is a rare case in foster care.” Prior to being placed in foster care, she lived in a number of different houses in Cutbank, as the community at large tried to look out for her. She was fortunate to have had only one placement in foster care, where she remained from the age of 14 until she aged out of the system. Aurelia values her relationship with her foster parents, whom she calls Mom and Dad, as well as the relationships she’s made with other foster youth through her participation in camp. What’s Aurelia’s message to fellow foster youth? Go to school! “Going to college opens up so many doors you didn’t know existed,” she says. “You can’t go anywhere in life if you don’t go to school!” Aurelia, your mentor said it right; you are an outstanding young woman and there is no doubt you’ll go far!