EWU Student to Present at Rise Up Passport to Careers Conference

April 12, 2023

EWU’s Curtis Anderson was recently accepted as a speaker for the Rise Up Passport to Careers State Conference in Seattle, May 23-24.

The conference is sponsored by Washington Passport Network, a statewide organization that supports students who grew up in foster care, those who have experienced unaccompanied homelessness, and the adult professionals they rely upon.

Anderson applied for the conference speaking opportunity as both a Passport Network alumni and a former foster youth. He says competition for the honor  involved “some amazing folks from across the state of Washington who have also represented former foster youth and unaccompanied homeless youth in amazing ways.”

Anderson is pursuing a master’s degree in social work and is currently working as a graduate assistant. He came to EWU thanks in part to the Passport to College Promise, a state-funded scholarship and support program that promotes university enrollment and success among current and former foster youth. Anderson grew up experiencing homelessness off and on until he entered the foster care system.

“Being a graduate assistant has allowed me to become an at-large member of the Washington State Passport Leadership Team, and to work with the people who direct the systems that I was raised in,” Anderson says.

Already he has been able to make tangible and positive changes for foster youth and homeless young people, “which is priceless to me,” Anderson says. “As an at-large member, I help represent over 50,000 foster and homeless youth throughout the state, and I know that without my graduate assistantship this would not have been possible.”

The conference speaking opportunity is not the only impressive accolade Anderson has earned since coming to Eastern. Just last year he was nominated by Heidi Schnebly, senior director of EWU Care and Support Services, for the university’s Civic Leadership Award, which he later received

“For both my Civic Leadership Award and my speakership, I honestly had very mixed feelings,” says Anderson. “It’s hard to describe in words, but if you look at the data you will find that former foster youth have some of the worst outcomes when compared to any other subpopulation in the United States.

“So, for me, being recognized in these ways felt like my voice was heard for the first time in my life, because when you grow up in foster care, you don’t get to make choices, you don’t get to be a kid and you certainly don’t get the support that other youths do,” he says.

After graduating in June, Anderson plans to move to Seattle to continue his advocacy for former foster and homeless youth.

“Everything that I am has been possible because at some point others were willing to help me along the way, Anderson says. “Building on that, I’m very proud to say that I am anything but a self-made individual. Isacc Newton said that ‘if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ And it is only recently through my experience here at Eastern that I have really been able to understand and embrace that concept.”