A small group of children in foster care are getting a sneak peak at college life thanks to a new partnership between Community Based Care of Central Florida and the University of Central Florida.

The two organizations came together to open the First Star Central Florida Academy this month, which places 16 eighth-graders at UCF for four weeks this summer. The students, who come from across Central Florida and are under the care of the state, are taking classes on the main campus and living in one of the residence halls.

Organizers hope that by immersing the students in a college experience they will be inspired to stay in school and do what’s needed to become competitive applicants for college.

“We are thrilled to be part of this partnership,” said Tammie Nadeau, an assistant director in Multicultural Academic & Support Services at UCF. Nadeau is the academy’s liaison at UCF in Student Development and Enrollment Services. “We need to reach, inspire and prepare every student, regardless of their background, for a successful transition into college. We have had many successes with several of our programs, which focus on successfully transitioning first generation and other high school students into UCF. The academy is another way to provide more opportunities for access to as many students as possible.”

During the summer portion of the academy program students are taking math, English, yoga and technology courses taught by high school teachers. UCF and CBC are providing academic support, chaperones, resident assistants, enrichment and life-skills workshops. The students say it is making a difference for them.

“I want to change the world by starting with me,” said 15-year-old Dawnasia, who is in the program and will attend high school in the fall. “First Star Central Florida Academy has helped guide me on a path toward that goal by showing me not only my self-worth but what my future could hold.”

Dawnasia’s last name was not used at her guardian’s request.

The students in the program will be back on campus during the next few semesters for follow-up Saturday Academies. The academies will focus on teaching students the college-admissions process, life skills, career preparation such as writing resumes, interview skills and financial planning for college.

The academy is modeled after a national program and is funded through a grant.