by Sam Sentelle
Posted on June 26, 2018
Riverbend — a new opportunity for children coming from foster care
June 26, 2018
“I’m a ‘yes’ man,” Jim Strawn told Putnam Rotarians during their luncheon meeting today. “I always try to find a way to say ‘yes’ before I say ‘no.'”
Through his writing and speaking, he is recognized as an advocate of good mental health and emotional well being.
With teaching credentials for special education, Strawn worked for nearly twenty years as director of marketing and community education at Highland Hospital.
“One of my strengths,” he said, “is my connectivity to West Virginians. There are 1.8 million of us, and I know 1.4 million very well.
“If I don’t know you, give me three minutes and I will know someone that you know very well. And then I’m not a stranger anymore. We’re connected. I’m an acquaintance now.”
Strawn has moved up to a new and unique calling with the Riverbend Center opening in the former WVU Tech site in Montgomery.
Operated by KVC Health Systems, Riverbend is the first ever college campus, said Strawn, for youth who have been in foster care.
The company which had its start in 1970 as the Kaw Valley Center, a boys’ home in Kansas City, Kansas, has grown into an international organization for behavioral health care, child welfare, and community health.
“Children coming out of foster care at age 18 were falling through the cracks,” said Strawn. “Eighty-four percent of them want to go to college; twelve percent actually go to college, but only two percent of them get the degree.
“They turn 18. They emerge out of the foster system. Support is no longer there. They go off to school. There’s a Christmas break. Some students go home. These students don’t have a home to go to.
“So KVC purchased WVU Tech on a 25-year lease purchase, all the facilities that are up there.
“It’s going to be a campus for teenagers emerging out of the foster care system, not just in West Virginia. It’s the first of its kind, the first in the world.”
Students will begin coming to the campus this fall, the first class for Riverbend.
“BridgeValley Community & Technical College will be the college providing the academics to the students,” Strawn said. “KVC will provide the support which the students need, They will provide some of the ‘soft skills,’ for the emotional and attitudinal well being.
“Students will be living there,” he continued. “Riverbend is a center supporting higher education. It’s a college setting. It’s a college campus.”