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North Bay Foster Parents Turn Underachievers Into Scholars

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Roy and Claudia Asprer of Novato have taken in 90 foster children over the past 15 years. They also have four children of their own. (CBS)

Roy and Claudia Asprer of Novato have taken in 90 foster children over the past 15 years. They also have four children of their own. (CBS)

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NOVATO (CBS News) — If there was an election for role models of the year, we know who’d get our vote. CBS News met them, on the road, in the Bay Area.

It is a day 18-year-old Brittany Edmonson thought she’d never see. As a foster child, she finished her freshman year with a 0.00 GPA and just didn’t care. And yet here she is four years later graduating from Novato High School, with honors and going to college.

What changed? She got the right foster parents — Roy and Claudia Asprer.

“They told me as long as you do what I tell you to do, you will go to college,” said Brittany. “And now here I am. I’m going to college.”

For a typical foster kid, college is a pipe dream. Only about a 3 percent of foster kids go to college. But your odds can improve dramatically if you’re given one distinct advantage — a chance to live with Claudia and Roy.

Over the last 15 years, the Asprers have taken in 90 foster children in addition to their own four. All the kids are loved. But it is the older teenagers who seemed to have benefited from staying with the Asprers. Of the dozen or so who have spent their high school years with the couple, beginning with Marjorie in 1997 (“I graduated with a BA in humanities,” she said), virtually all the foster teens that have passed through the house are either in college or have already graduated.

“Life has totally turned around for me,” said Mickey.

“I didn’t know what college was when I was in 8th grade,” said Sindy.

How did they do it?

“It takes a lot of time,” said Claudia. “You have to put in the time helping them with the homework. ‘This is how you study for biology.’ ‘This is how you’re going to take your notes.’ ‘This is how you’re going to do flashcards…'”

She went on and on, but it basically boils down to teaching self-disciple and not taking any lip.

“We do have that expectation,” said Roy.

Even in the summer, the kids spend hours a day studying, catching up, and no TV. Everyone just focused on the future. Yes, there’s still some harping involved, but the Asprers said it’s becoming more and more of a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Katie is a high school junior. “It’s seeing the other foster kids that have graduated and come back. You know, they visit us and tell us all the stories of college and how great it is and how they’re having fun.”

Now the only challenge is scheduling all the graduations.

“That’s our reward, when they walk, when the graduate, when they feel good about themselves,” said Roy.

“It’s like a little butterfly,” said Claudia. “They’re in this little cocoon. They don’t look pretty at all, just like crumpled up — and then all of a sudden, beautiful things come out of it.”

Claudia and Roy — masters of metamorphosis.

Editor’s Note: Claudia Asprer was profiled on KPIX 5 in 2012 as a winner of the Jefferson Award for community service. Click here to read more about her work.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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