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KVC West Virginia

Grieving Boy Finds Hope & Support for His Dreams with Help from KVC’s First Star Academy

first star academy

Walter Swoope

Walter Swoope submitted this story as a part of KVC’s Annual Story Contest. In addition to his role as Donor Relations Manager, Walter is a major facilitator of KVC West Virginia’s First Star Academy where he advocates for and helps meet the needs of youth in our First Star program. He shared this story about how a grieving teen boy learned how to cope with his mother’s sudden passing and found hope and support for his dreams and future. 

Learn more about First Star Academy and refer a student.

During the initial recruitment of students into our new First Star Academy, we met “Jack” (name changed for privacy) whose mother recently passed away. After his mother’s passing, he entered relative kinship foster care. Jack is academically gifted but was struggling to cope with the immense grief of his mother’s sudden passing.

Three days after we met, Jack transferred from his KVC-supported foster home to a West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) group home for intensive bereavement intervention. Jack was not only struggling under the crushing weight of his grief: he had to deal with the sudden upheaval of his home life. Before, in his foster home, he had security and stability. However, now he was thrust into a world of unknowns.

first star academy

After moving into the group home, he also had to move to a new high school. This came with its own unique challenges. Jack couldn’t complete his schoolwork because he didn’t have his own computer, and the group home had limited access to technology.  Even though he was no longer under KVC’s care, DHHR and his new case management team were very cooperative and allowed KVC staff to continue communicating with him during his intervention. KVC supplied Jack with a laptop and included him in virtual First Star Academy workshops and meetings.

Creating Connections and Hoping for the Future

Jack is now back in KVC’s care and just started his junior year of high school. Jack is a gifted student with a huge passion for math and dreams of becoming a college mathematics professor. To help Jack make connections and give him unique opportunities to expand his dream, we introduced him to Dr. Michael Schroeder, Director of Undergraduate Studies with Marshall University’s Department of Mathematics.

Dr. Schroeder and Jack spent an hour over video discussing career options in math and insight into becoming a math professor. Dr. Schroeder even offered to help Jack find advanced study opportunities for high school students and math-related events! Dr. Schroeder also invited Jack to visit the Marshall campus and meet with other professors in the mathematics department.

After their conversation, Jack told us he felt excited and motivated to reach for his dreams and hope for his future.

first star academy

KVC is committed to helping Jack develop his skills, reach for academic excellence and fulfill his dream of becoming an educator. We’re providing him with wraparound services and support, and with our First Star Academy, he’ll have the resources to reach his goals. He even said he’s interested in mentoring and tutoring others in our First Star Academy program! We’re incredibly proud of the progress Jack has made. We’re excited to see how he continues to grow and succeed in the future.

About First Star Academy

First Star KVC West Virginia Academy is an immersive preparatory college  that also includes opioid/drug education and mentorship programs for students enrolled in 8th through 12th grade who are currently in foster care. Our First Star Academy aims to uplift and empower youth to achieve their dreams of academic success and higher education. Students who qualify may participate in this program for free.

Participating students gain access to invaluable resources that will improve their school experiences and outcomes. They will also learn about post-secondary or technical/trade education opportunities. Ninety-eight percent of First Star students graduate high school. Ninety percent enroll in higher education via two- or four-year colleges or vocational schools.

Know a student who may benefit from the support this program provides? Contact Walter Swoope at

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