In Arizona and elsewhere, all too often young people in foster care lack opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills they need to navigate the world after foster care – and many find it challenging to lead safe, satisfying and productive adult lives as a result.

In response, WellCare Health Plans, Inc. announced the WellCare Community Foundation has committed $500,000 to First Star, Inc. in support of its Academy initiative, a groundbreaking educational program that gives high-school age foster youth the support they need to transition successfully to college or careers. Through its donation, WellCare will help First Star dramatically expand its presence by more than doubling the number of foster youth served in Arizona, according to First Star estimates.

Arizona’s foster population totals approximately 17,000 young people across the state. As foster youth age out of the foster care system, they often face critical life decisions related to their health, safety and education. To support this transition, First Star partners with child welfare agencies, universities and school districts to make a long-term investment in foster youth and provide essential support on the path to adult life.

First Star’s four-year support programs, which are hosted on university and college campuses across the country, provide young people with the encouragement, guidance, academic and life skills needed to successfully move on to higher education and adulthood. The program is led by professional staffers and peer mentors and offers immersive residential summers and monthly sessions during the school year. First Star operates on 12 university and college campuses across the U.S.

In Arizona, First Star operates in partnership with Arizona State University (ASU) through Access ASU, which is designed to ensure all Arizona students graduate high school ready to thrive in college and the 21st century workforce. WellCare’s donation will help expand the ASU program beyond the current cohort of students from Maricopa county enabling recruitment from surrounding Gila, Pinal, Mohave, Coconino, Apache, Navajo and Yavapai counties by utilizing a hybrid of ASU digital learning platforms and residential summer programming.

“Today, there are an estimated 440,000 U.S. children in foster care. An overwhelming majority of these young people face abysmal prospects after leaving the foster system. Nearly half end up homeless, incarcerated or on welfare within two years of aging out of care; half graduate high school; about 10 percent enter college; and fewer than 3 percent go on to earn a college degree. In comparison, 98 percent of First Star students graduate high school, and 89 percent move on to higher education,” said Peter Samuelson, First Star co-founder and president. “First Star students have a path forward and an opportunity to strengthen the skills they need to move on to higher education, employment and productive adult lives. With ASU’s indispensable involvement, First Star is helping to change the course of foster kids’ lives, and now, thanks to the support of WellCare, we have an opportunity to extend our impact even further in the state of Arizona.”

“At WellCare, our mission is to help our members live better, healthier lives. We do this by making connections to critical programs and social services that promote better health outcomes for our members and the communities we serve,” said Rhonda Mims, executive vice president and chief public affairs officer of WellCare and president of the WellCare Community Foundation. “Because we understand engaged young adults are often healthier young adults, we are thrilled to partner with First Star to expand its foster youth programming in Arizona and to help students toward healthful, secure adulthoods.”

“At ASU, we believe our institution is best measured by the range and diversity of those we serve and how well they succeed. We demonstrate that commitment through our Access ASU program, which is focused on helping to ensure all of our state’s youth have the information and resources they need to pursue their education after high school,” said Edmundo Hidalgo, vice president of education outreach partnerships at Arizona State University. “We are immensely proud to work with First Star, and now with WellCare, in inviting foster youth to become a part of the ASU community by providing them the encouragement and preparation they need to make their higher education dreams a reality.”

About WellCare Health Plans, Inc.: Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., WellCare Health Plans, Inc. focuses primarily on providing government-sponsored managed care services to families, children, seniors and individuals with complex medical needs primarily through Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, as well as individuals in the Health Insurance Marketplace. WellCare serves approximately 5.5 million members nationwide as of September 30, 2018. For more information about WellCare, please visit the company’s website at

About the WellCare Community Foundation: The WellCare Community Foundation was established in 2010 and is a nonprofit, private foundation. Its mission is to foster and promote the health, well-being and quality of life for the poor, distressed and other medically underserved populations – including those who are elderly, young and indigent – and the communities in which they live. The WellCare Community Foundation carries out this mission by supporting work that helps people live healthy, safe and productive lives, and by assisting groups with serious and neglected health needs. Underscoring this mission is the WellCare Community Foundation’s goal to serve as a national resource that fosters an environment where there is a continuum of education, access and quality health care, all of which improve the overall health, well-being and quality of life of targeted beneficiaries.

About First Star, Inc.: First Star improves the lives of foster youth by partnering with child welfare agencies, universities, and school districts to ensure foster youth have the academic, life skills, and adult supports needed to successfully transition to higher education and adulthood. First Star’s Foster Youth Academies, the nation’s only foster youth college prep programs that include residential components on university campuses over the four years of high school, transform the lives of participating youth: from poverty, abuse and neglect to academic success and self-sufficiency.