Winter Haven College Student Adopted from Foster Care Has Zero Student Debt. Here’s Why:

From left to right: Ronald, Victor, and Violet Sims. (Courtesy of Simms Family)
Victor Sims (center) has completed a Bachelor’s degree at USF and is working on a Master’s degree. The state of Florida is paying for it, thanks to a program specifically for students like Victor who were adopted from the foster care system. (Courtesy of Sims Family)


A Winter Haven man who was adopted from foster care as a child is doing something remarkable. He’s working on a postgraduate degree entirely on the state of Florida’s dime, and it’s all thanks to having been adopted.

Victor Sims’s parents, Violet and Ronald, could not have children of their own, so they looked into foster care. They then decided they wanted to adopt children.

“It was crazy, but it was fun,” Violet said about the experience. All seven of the children the couple adopted are now grown up.

Of course, the state provides some financial help to foster parents and families that actually adopt foster children. But what you may not know is that Florida has a program that pays the tuition at state universities, community colleges and vocational schools for students adopted from foster care.

Victor is taking advantage of that program in a major way. He has already graduated from USF with a Bachelor’s degree and is working on a Masters degree. He has no college debt.

“Now that’s exciting,” he said with a laugh. “When I graduated with my Bachelor’s I was talking with one of my closest friends and he was talking about how he has $60,000 in debt. All I could think of was, ‘thank God I was adopted.’”

The free college program is available for children adopted from foster care through the age of 28.


By Rick Elmhorst Polk County

Original Article

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Alexia Nechayev

FYS Events & Meeting Chair
(Palm Beach)

Hello, My name is Alexia Nechayev. I am 25 years old and I am an alumna of Florida International University where I received my B.A. in Psychology. My future career goal is to be a Lawyer. I was in care for about one year from age 17 to 18. Prior to entering care, I only knew about the negative stigma regarding foster care and while in care that narrative was unfortunately my experience.

In school I felt like I was on display because my status in care was broadcast to other students and in my placement behavior was leveraged for “privileges” that should be a natural right of all children. Because I did not know my rights I did not know that what I was experiencing was wrong. Today this is exactly why I advocate, because I don’t want this to be the same for other youth who are experiencing foster care.

This is my second year on the FYS Statewide Board and I’m happy to be the Events and Meetings Chair this year because my main goal through advocacy is to reach as many people as possible. My favorite thing as a board member is to see how comfortable members become while working together. The community needs to know that youth in foster care are real people, going through some of the hardest moments of their life and youth need to know that their voice is powerful. I believe that we have to speak up and bring these issues to people’s attention so that they do not forget us. Advocacy, education and consistency is the only way.

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