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WVU graduate student to focus on opening pathways from foster care to college graduation as Newman Civic Fellow

A woman with dark hair tilts her head as she smiles while wearing a necklace.

West Virginia University graduate student Adalheid “Heidi” Crum was recently named a Newman Civic Fellow. Crum’s work focuses on bridging the gap between wardships and higher education. (Submitted photo)

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A West Virginia University student who grew up in wardships, what many know as foster care, and wants to help others like her go to college and earn their degrees is the University’s new Newman Civic Fellow.

Adalheid “Heidi” Crum, who will graduate in May with her master’s degree in Higher Education Administration and begin doctoral work this fall in the same program, said she hopes to serve as an inspiration to children growing up within the system and also as a bridge between wardships and higher education.

Crum currently resides in Missouri and attends WVU remotely. A non-traditional student, she completed her Regents Bachelor of Arts degree through the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences in 2021 with an area of emphasis on Human Services.

“West Virginia University changed my life. I am now part of that disparate, nominal percentage of people with wardship experience who also have a degree,” she said. “I learned from my GED that my childhood wounds bleed into my adulthood and, for people like me, that's the bad news, but I learned with WVU that it's the good news, too, because it's never too late. The wound is never too old, too far or too long ago to find healing.”

For her Newman Civic Project, Crum plans to expand her work with congregant placements within wardships, such as group homes, transitional living facilities and similar placement spaces.

She’s already working closely with a site in Missouri.

“My hope is that by starting small, but diligently, with one facility, I'll have a solid platform to move into speaking from a more regional lens,” Crum said.

Often, young people in wardships are ignored by higher education officials because of confidentiality within congregant placements or concerns about returns on investment, given the low achievement rates of foster care-experienced individuals in higher education.

Crum’s goal is to close the gap between congregant facilities and colleges and universities, especially at regional and local levels.

“As few as 3% of wardship-experienced students obtain a four-year degree, while 70% or more experience incarceration, second-generation wardship, death by suicide or drug overdose before they’re 26 years old,” Crum said. “Earning my undergraduate degree with WVU secures me among that 3%, so I’m charged with doing my part to raise that percentage of hope, healing and best future possibilities for more wardship-experienced individuals through higher education achievement.”

As a toddler, Crum was exposed to drugs and physically abused. Following law enforcement intervention, she was put in state care but could not be placed for adoption because the rights of her biological parents had not been terminated.

By age 15, Crum had aged out of the wardship system. She earned her GED and enrolled in a local community college before eventually dropping out, but motherhood gave her a renewed energy to continue in higher education.

“As a transient girl, I was placed in orphanages, group homes, therapeutic treatment hospitals and some foster homes across the nation,” she said. “I looked at a U.S. map and chose an area that, for me personally, was untouched, unmarked, undamaged by trauma, abuse and neglect. That's how I selected WVU.”

Crum is one of 154 student civic leaders from 38 states, Washington, D.C. and Mexico that Campus Compact has named to the 2023-24 Newman Civic Fellows class.

Named for Campus Compact co-founder Frank Newman, the fellowship provides a variety of learning and networking opportunities, including the Annual Convening of Newman Civic Fellows, which offers in-person skills building and networking. The fellowship also provides fellows with pathways to apply for exclusive scholarship and post-graduate opportunities.

Ultimately, Crum’s goal is to help others find safe spaces through education.

“I have to do what I can to raise that suffocating, heavy bar even just a little bit higher, to make more room in higher education for people who might be a little bit different — for people a little like me.”



MEDIA CONTACT: Lindsay Willey
Director of Marketing and Communications
WVU Honors College

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