This is the first of a 3-part series by KLST’s Daija Barret about WHIT, a nonprofit tutoring program for children in the foster-care system.

SAN ANGELO, Texas — A local San Angelo nonprofit is working to improve high school graduation and college attendance rates among children in the foster care system.

WHIT, or Weekly Hands-on Independent Tutoring, was founded by Jennifer and Jeffrey Lisson last year in San Angelo. The program offers free tutoring to foster children who have fallen behind and don’t have the resources to find a tutor.

“In Texas, foster kids have the lowest graduation rate of any cohort tracked by the state. Lower than immigrant children, lower than homeless children,” said Jeffrey Lisson, WHIT’s Vice President and co-founder.

According to Lisson, only 65-percent of Texas’s 30,000 foster children graduate from high school. Of the students who do complete high school, only one-third make it to college.

There are many resources for foster children who make it to college, the issue, Lisson says, is getting them through high school first.

“That puts kids in foster care who start out behind, even farther behind,” said Lisson. “What we want to do is use education to try and break that cycle.”

WHIT works with Child Protective Services to identify children in foster care or in the CPS system who need additional help with their education.

“WHIT program, it’s actually named after my daughter Whitney Thompson who was tragically killed by a drunk driver several years back,” said Jennifer Lisson, WHIT’s President. “We have some amazing tutors for these kids to help them get through school and help them understand their curriculum and so far, it’s working extremely well.”

The program then pairs children with honor students from Angelo State University.

“I think with education comes a lot of opportunities,” said Carolyn Loper, one of WHIT’s tutors. “So, I think by really reminding them that’s what’s important and keeping their eyes looking towards the future, we’re playing such a huge role in who they can become.”

WHIT has seen great success since its creation last year, so much success that CPS is asking the Lissons to take the program statewide. The program has been approved to work with Texas A & M University, adoption agencies and DFPS offices.

“It’s been so successful that CPS said you guys please go, expand through the state,” said Jennifer Lisson. “So that’s what we’re doing. We just got on board with Texas Tech in Lubbock and their school system”