The Eliada School of Trade Arts (ESTA) is a new post-secondary vocational school and transitional living program for young men transitioning from long-term foster care to independence. ESTA was born out of a desire to make a meaningful positive impact on the dismal outcomes that currently characterize this group. For example:
- 80% of the current prison population is comprised of former foster children
- 25% of children leaving foster care are incarcerated within two years
- 66% of children exiting foster care have not obtained a diploma or GED by age 19
- 50% of children within 1.5 years of leaving foster care are unemployed
- 25% are homeless within four years of leaving care
- 3% of former foster children will achieve a college degree
With turbulent upbringings and shuffled between foster homes for a majority of their childhood, these youth are often unequipped for and overwhelmed by the prospect of independent life. Our goal is to offer these young people a unique opportunity. Through vocational and academic training, character development, a support network, and the experience of transitional living, ESTA will give needy young men the tools to become self-sufficient adults and productive members of society.
ESTA is supported by generous grants from The Duke Endowment, Janirve Foundation, Cannon Foundation, The Perry Rudnick Endowment of the Community Foundation of Henderson County, the Marks Family Foundation, and Lifeway Christian Stores.
ESTA is a three-pronged program focusing on Trade Education, Transitional Living, & Character Development.
Trade and Academic Education
ESTA will offer students master tradesman programs with a clear path to a specific vocation. Beginning with novice skills and progressing to the highest levels of their chosen trade, young people will graduate with both an Associate’s degree as well as the skills necessary to be self-sufficient in the future. Second year students will complete a senior capstone project that will provide resume-building experience, while standard business coursework will round out the student educational experience.
We have chosen the degree tracks with respect to Eliada’s existing resources, expertise, and community connections. For example, our first program will be in Culinary Technology, including the development of basic skills and restaurant management. Last year, we contracted with the county to overtake operations of the county kitchen, which is adjacent to our campus and provides a professional and spacious learning environment. In addition, we recently hired Donna McCrain, a former AB-Tech instructor as our campus chef. Ms. McCrain will take a leadership role in the culinary portion of our program, while our President/CEO Mark Upright will use his MBA, law degree, and experience as an adjunct instructor at UNCA to provide key leadership in support of the academics of the curriculum.
All students will be required to live on campus at all times. Student housing will be provided in an apartment setting, with two students per apartment and a full-time Student Affairs Coordinator on-campus. A Student Union will be open all day for students to access a pool table, computer/work stations, large screen television, dining room table for meetings and comfortable seating for lounging. Students will have the benefit of all of Eliada’s existing campus amenities, including our climbing wall, 5K trail, pool, weight room, computer labs, petting zoo, driving range, and much more.
Each student will take part in a powerful personal strategic planning process called “Castle Building.” Through the Castle Building curriculum, students will have the opportunity to set meaningful goals for their personal relationships, spiritual and philosophical beliefs, education and career goals, role in the community, and achieving a healthy lifestyle. Students will work with a dedicated life skills coach to create this plan and will revisit it quarterly, ensuring that even as they go about their day-to-day activities, they are able to stay focused on their long-term goals and aspirations. Character Development will also be facilitated by a twice weekly morning reflection, service learning opportunities, emotional literacy groups, teambuilding exercises, and values-driven mentorship.