2023 Scholarship Recipient
2023 All-Star Scholarship Recipient
Hi Deanna, can you introduce yourself to the UMPS CARE family?
Hello! My name is Deanna Lescouflair, and I am 18 years old. I am going to Rutgers University New Brunswick with an intended major of biotechnology.
How did you find out about this scholarship?
I found out about the UMPS CARE Chaarities All-Star Scholarship through a program in New jersey called Embrella. They posted a lot of scholarship opportunities for current and former foster youth. So, when I saw the All-Star Scholarship, I decided to apply, and I am so grateful that I did.
What does this scholarship mean to you?
This scholarship means an opportunity for me to obtain my bachelor’s degree without having to worry much about financing college and taking out loans. Being a recipient has lifted a lot of weight from me which will allow me to focus on my studies. Getting an education is very important to me and is something that I prioritize. Only about 50% of foster youth graduate high school and between 2-9% obtain a bachelor’s degree. I want to be part of the 2-9% of former foster youth that obtains a higher education to encourage the current foster youth to continue their education.
Why did you choose to go to Rutgers?
I chose Rutgers University – New Brunswick because it is a major research university that is doing amazing work. During the COVID-19 outbreak, Rutgers University helped develop the Moderna vaccine, and conducted the groundbreaking research that led to finding a cure for Tuberculosis which I find impressive. Many of the professors in Rutgers are conducting research and writing scientific research papers. I am very interested in research as I am part of the Rutgers Youth Enjoy Science Program (RUYES) which allowed me to assist researchers on cancer cell research. This is my second year in the program, and I have learned so much while being in the lab, so it was fitting for me to attend Rutgers to continue research throughout the next 4 years.
Can you share a little bit about your background and what you’ve overcome?
I was placed in the foster care system when I was 14 years old with my younger sister who was 6 years old. My sister and I were very fortunate to be placed together in both homes that we were placed in. Out of the two homes, one family decided to keep us and allowed us to become part of their family. However, it was very difficult for me to become adopted by the family I was with. Since I was a white child living in an African-American household, many of the caseworkers and supervisors were surprised at my decision to wanting to become adopted and tried to have me change my decision in being adopted. It took 3 years before I was able to become adopted, what seemed to have been an open and shut case had ended up being a long, hard battle. It took multiple meetings with my law guardian, judges and bonding evaluations before the courts allowed me to be free for adoption. While I was able to become adopted into the family at the age of 17, my sister was not able to become adopted and is still currently in the foster care system. With the newly implemented New Jersey Sibling Bill of Rights that I helped implement I can keep in touch with my sister.
What is one fun fact about you?
One thing about me that most people don’t know is that I work very closely with New Jersey’s Depart of Children and Families (DCF Youth Council). On this Youth council is about 16 other youth who have lived experience and we work to help change NJ DCF. With this Youth Council we work with the Commissioner of DCF Cristine Beyer and other office managers, and coordinators. I am part of the Sibling and Advocacy Subcommittee and we have launched the EnlightenMENT Peer2Peer mentoring program for youth in care, and the implementation and policy work of the NJ Sibling Bill of Rights. Along with this, I also take part in various panels and trainings for DCF Faculty and Staff and the Law guardians and Judges regarding the work on the council, and my lived experience. I am very passionate about changing the way the foster care system works and most importantly keeping siblings connected as I lost connection from my sister when she was removed from my resource home. Since I got involved with advocacy work, I have also had the pleasure of going to Congress with the National Foster Youth Institute and speaking with Congressman Donald Payne Jr. about some of the issues in the foster care system and my experiences. This is something that is not spoken about too much and it’s something that needs to be addressed across the country.