As part of a service-​​learning course, North­eastern stu­dents are lob­bying state leg­is­la­tors to pass a bill that would guar­antee up to $5 mil­lion a year in fed­eral sup­port for Mass­a­chu­setts foster youth who age out of the foster-​​care system.

Young activists in the com­mu­ni­ca­tions course called Advo­cacy Work­shop are cre­ating press strate­gies, meeting with sen­a­tors on Beacon Hill, and working directly with the Jamaica Plain-​​based child and family ser­vices agency Home for Little Wan­ders. Service-​​learning com­po­nents like these are part of Northeastern’s expe­ri­en­tial learning model through which stu­dents learn by engaging with the pri­vate and non­profit sec­tors locally and globally.

According to assis­tant pro­fessor of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Studies Greg Goodale, who leads the Advo­cacy Work­shop, up to 700 foster youth begin to age out of Depart­ment of Social Ser­vices care each year when they grad­uate from high school: At 18, they lose their clothing allowance; at 21, they lose their housing; and at 24, they’re removed from job-​​training programs.

Youth who age out are left with nothing,” said Goodale. “They don’t have the training they need to get a job, they don’t have a place to live, and they don’t have mentoring.”

But North­eastern stu­dents like senior com­mu­ni­ca­tions major Abbe Bit­ting, who is taking Goodale’s course, are working to change that. In an effort to per­son­alize the plight of foster youth, she’s meeting face-​​to-​​face with col­lege stu­dents who used to live at the Home for Little Wan­derers. Based on what she learns during those meet­ings, she’ll draft­story pitches to local edi­tors and write press releases to gen­erate media interest and ulti­mately raise public aware­ness and support.

On the lob­bying front, Bit­ting and some of her class­mates have met with state Sen. Jen­nifer Flanagan, who intro­duced the bill—Senate Bill 40, which is before the Senate Ways and Means committee—and Sen. Sonia Chang-​​Diaz. Bit­ting is sched­uled to meet with a member of Sen. Karen Spilka’s staff later this month. Goodale and the Home for Little Wan­ders’ director of advo­cacy Brian Con­dron met with Gov. Deval Patrick on behalf of the students.

For Bit­ting the fight is worth it. “I never thought once before about what hap­pens to chil­dren when they age out of care,” she said. “Trying to make it on your own, without a family and without sup­port, is nearly impos­sible. I won’t stop thinking about the issue now.”