Real Stories

Sarah Malik: From Foster Youth to Advocate

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The FosterMore team is proud to share the story of Sarah, whose involvement with foster care started when she entered the system at 13 years old. She was suddenly pulled from her high school and placed in a lockdown group home with an onsite classroom for students in grades 6 through 12. She recalls this environment being extremely disorganized, as teachers were spread thin across 7 grades. Since these teachers didn’t have time to help every student, most of what Sarah learned was self-taught through worksheets and textbooks. 

In this facility, Sarah remembers the focus being on at-risk children who could act out, rather than on learning and education. In addition to a lack of educational resources, frequent school and placement changes make it difficult for many foster youth like Sarah to maintain social and academic consistency.

Having struggled to receive a quality education while in the foster care system, Sarah was motivated to start her own organization:

“I’ve experienced the damaging effects of the system firsthand, and I’ve been determined to make a difference ever since,” she said. 

Sarah, a current high school student herself, is the founder and CEO of Achillea, a nonprofit that provides peer tutoring to hundreds of kids across the country who are in foster care, discharged, or receiving preventive services. Achillea’s mission is to empower youth to persevere through challenges and forge their own paths to success. The organization works with foster care and tutoring nonprofits across 30 states to create an individualized and trauma-informed learning approach for each student: “We encourage open communication between tutors, students, and the students’ caregivers and agency workers. Above all, we stress that foster kids deserve access to quality education, not just because of their circumstances, but because education is a human right,” she said.

About 67% of Achillea administration has lived experience in foster care: “Having a very understanding tutor […] definitely made it easier to open up and learn,” said Aiana, an Achillea alumna, on WNBC

If you are considering getting involved in the foster care community, here’s how Sarah recommends you can make the biggest impact: “Support youth activism. Youth who have experienced the child welfare system firsthand should be at the forefront of change. Their experiences are proof of what works and what hasn’t been working.” She also encourages fellow students in grades 8 through 12 to become an Achillea tutor and spread youth activism. To make your impact on the foster care community, sign up to become a tutor or open an Achillea club chapter at your school. For K-12 students interested in receiving academic support, sign up here

If you would like to support more youth like Aiana, you can donate to Achillea here. Just $50 will pay a month’s tuition for a youth in the child welfare system.

Thank you for your ongoing contributions to the foster care community, Sarah! We hope your story inspires others to make a difference in the lives of foster youth across the country.