Wake Tech and Lenovo

Working together to make a difference


Beginning in 2004. Wake Technical Community College wanted to help support former foster care youth achieve better outcomes through education and opportunity. Lenovo joined the program by providing laptops so that every student could feel fully engaged and empowered to succeed. 

As the leading provider of education technology worldwide, Lenovo is deeply committed to helping students with the tools they need to succeed, and are proud to be doing so at home in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Lenovo and Wake Technical Community College Offer New Opportunities for Former Foster Youth


Nationwide, the societal cost of foster care continues to grow, with an impact that goes well beyond budgets, as communities struggle to find ways to ensure foster youth have the opportunities they need to succeed. After leaving the system at age 18, 50 percent of former foster youths are unemployed at age 23. These young people are four times more likely to be receiving government benefits and twothirds less likely to have earned a high school diploma or GED.

The Wake Tech community has felt the impact close to home. Forty percent of the county’s homeless population spent time in the foster care system. Twenty percent of former foster youths are incarcerated by the age of 20, and the young women are twice as likely to get pregnant by the age of 19.


In 2008, to improve the lives of these underserved youth, Wake Tech launched an innovative new program called Fostering Bright Futures (FBF) that built on a 2004 initiative by Raleigh architect Kenn Gardner. According to Stephanie Lake, Senior Director of Foundation Relations & Administration, the program was initially funded by local corporations, but was soon joined by individuals in the community as the word spread. Several public agencies also came on board to help build a comprehensive support structure for kids leaving the system.

“Our goal was to provide former foster youth with mentoring, tutoring, career counseling, and financial support to help them meet their educational goals and transition to independent adulthood,” says Lake. “FBF guides students through graduation and assists in transfers to bachelor’s degree programs.”

Wake Tech also reached out to Lenovo in Raleigh, NC, for help equipping FBF students with the technology they need to fully engage new opportunities. The local Lenovo Community Relations team made a commitment to provide FBF students with laptops and backpacks.

The laptops are donated by Lenovo to the college, loaned to the students, and supported by Wake Tech’s IT department. “Former foster youth really need mobile technology,” says Lake. “They don’t have Internet access at home. And they often work late shifts and take long bus rides to school, so they need the flexibility to study at odd hours. Most important, having a laptop makes our former foster youth feel like ‘regular’ students, the same as everyone else. This is a game changer.”

“These young adults face such overwhelming challenges,” says Lenovo Chief Connector for Community Relations Karen Ondrick. “Lenovo is proud to be a small part of a comprehensive support program by providing these Wake Tech students with the technology that is critical to college and career success.” In 2013, Lenovo North America Vice President Tom Looney, now retired, was appointed a trustee on the Wake Tech board, contributing his expertise in technology and public-private partnerships.

FBF Coordinator Michelle Blackmon works with every student in the program and assigns each one a volunteer mentor, frequently an older graduate of the foster care system. These relationships are strong and often continue after graduation. “Life can get in the way for FBF students,” says Blackmon. “For example, if they lose their housing, college is the last thing on their minds, but knowing they have one person they can go to whenever they need assistance makes a world of difference.”

FBF staff meet weekly with a network of local nonprofit partners to review the status of each student in the program. One partnership supports former foster children who are parents themselves, helping them to avoid repeating the cycle of neglect. Another helps students access resources such as housing and child care.


FBF has served 46 students since 2008, with annual enrollment tripling from five students in 2008 to 15 in 2015. The program is also advising an additional 35 students who are working toward high school graduation or their GED equivalent in order to meet college enrollment requirements.

The FBF retention rate is 99 percent, and the overall student GPA has improved from .09 in 2008 to 2.3 in 2015. Eighty percent of FBF students are employed part time. As of 2016, seven have earned an associate’s degree: five have transferred to four-year universities, and two are working in their fields of study and thriving.

Many lives have been impacted. Shana H., a 24-year-old single mom, is on track to earn her associate’s degree in nursing and her bachelor’s from Winston-Salem State University. Dyshon S., 23 years old, is heading toward an associate’s degree in business administration and plans to transfer to East Carolina University with the goal of becoming a physician’s assistant. Christy C. graduated in May 2015 and successfully completed her first year at Appalachian State University.

According to Lake, “Every step along the way — their first A or passing a math test — is a major accomplishment for these kids, because they’ve been told so many times they can’t do it. And they’re amazed that large corporations are supporting them. They are stunned and proud that a company as big as Lenovo cares about them.”

“Our preventative work is having a positive impact on the community, avoiding the human and financial costs of homelessness, incarceration, early pregnancy, and substance abuse. We are grateful to all our partners for helping to make it happen.”

As the world’s leading education technology provider, Lenovo is committed to innovations that help schools shape the future, one student at a time. For more information, please visit www. lenovo.com/education or contact FBF at fosteringbrightfutures@waketech.edu

Knowing they have one person they can go to whenever they need assistance makes a world of difference.

-Michelle Blackmon, Coordinator, Fostering Bright Futures, Wake Technical Community College
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