Meet Foster Care Hero Shante Elliott and her TasselTurn

Millennial Went from foster care to doctorate honored for work helping foster youth graduate

Elliott’s Story:

Her teenage mother turned her over to the state of North Carolina at birth.

Until she was adopted at age 13, Shante Elliott grew up in foster care in the child welfare system.

She’d go on to attend Fayetteville State University, earning dual bachelor’s degrees in English literature and communication, then a master’s in education policy from Loyola University Chicago.

Now working on her Ph.D. in learning science at Northwestern University, the 30-year-old quit her job as director of community engagement at a nonprofit this year to focus on growing TasselTurn, the Pilsen-based startup she founded two years ago to help foster care youth graduate high school.

“The conversation on the achievement gap focuses on two populations — students from traditional families and low-income students,” said the Uptown resident.

“In Illinois, about 87 percent of high school students graduate and 67 percent of low-income students. But only 32 percent of youth in foster care graduate. Those numbers are very different and concerning, yet the conversation stops at low income,” Elliott said.

“There is a serious need to concentrate efforts to ensure our foster children graduate high school as well. So TasselTurn picks up that conversation.”

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