Program Offers Extended Family for Foster Youth

The Guardian Scholars Program was recently featured on NBC’s ‘Nightly News.’ The Program is close to my heart and is most definitely Good News.

“When foster children become young adults they often find themselves struggling to make it in the world. But now some colleges are providing the kind of support that can make a difference helping these young people become successful…”

Watch the NBC video coverage here:

The Guardian Scholar Program is a comprehensive program that supports former foster youth in their efforts to gain a university, community college or trade school education. The program leverages the expertise and resources of the private sector and public agencies to achieve significant synergies to support students effectively and cost-efficiently. Academic institutions, Orangewood Children’s Foundation, public agencies and private citizens create a powerful team dedicated to assisting deserving foster youth in achieving their dreams of an education, realizing true independence and reaching their full potential.

The need for these programs is great. Currently, only approximately 10% of foster youth go on to higher education, and of that group, only 2% ever graduate. However, 70% of foster youth have aspirations to attend college. Foster youth face challenges receiving the information, support, preparation and basic needs necessary to access higher education. Guardian Scholars programs are critical to bridging the gap between foster youth’s goals and dreams and the reality of their life situations.

Modeling after the successful Guardian Scholars Program started by Ron Davis in Orange County, California in 1997, students are equipped with the educational and interpersonal skills necessary to become self-supporting, competent adults. Success is dependant on a team effort that combines participating colleges, donors, mentors, and the determination of the student. Guardian Scholar students have already overcome significant psychological, emotional, displacement and financial challenges. The combined effort of colleges, donors, mentors, and of course the student creates success. The Guardian Scholars model maximizes state and federal financial aid, foundation financial support and many warm hearts providing an emotional safety net.

“The daily challenges and obstacles that young people, raised in the foster care system, must overcome have left a deep impact on my life. Their stories of abandonment, abuse, poverty, and displacement are horrific. To help these young people, I founded the Guardian Scholars Program in 1998 at Cal State Fullerton,” states Ron Davis. “The purpose of the program is to ‘Make Dreams Come True’ by giving deserving students a scholarship and personalized life support. It is very rewarding to see students grow from frightened and confused freshman, into professionals, social services leaders, teachers, parents, and contributing members of society. The goal of our program is to create a family of support along with the gift of a scholarship.” The Guardian Scholars program began in 1998 with three students. Today, the program has expanded to 20 colleges in California, Washington, Colorado, Indiana, and Massachusetts serving hundreds of students. “We are proud that we have reached our ten year anniversary graduating over 50 former foster youth!” Ron Davis said.

Following is a list of schools that have either an established “Guardian Scholars” type program, or plans to implement this type of program for former foster youth students:

Bay Area • Heald College, SF • SFSU • SJSU • UC Santa Cruz • San Francisco City College • Chabot College • Ohlone College • CSU East Bay

Orange County • CSU Fullerton • UC Irvine • Orange Coast College • Hope International University • Chapman University • American Career College • Concordia University • Taller San Jose • Fullerton College

Southern California • CSU Pomona • CSU LA • CSU San Bernandino • San Diego State • UC San Diego • CSU San Marcos

Other States • Ball University, Indiana

UC Santa Cruz has a similar program called the Page & Eloise Smith Scholastic Society:

Cal Poly in Pomona has Renaissance Scholars:

National Foster Care Youth Statistics:

  • There are more than 500,000 children and youth in foster care in the U.S.; approximately 20,000 youth “age out” or emancipate from foster care each year.
  • 100,000 foster youth live in California.
  • In California, 65% of youth leaving foster care do so without a place to live.
  • Up to 50% of former foster/probation youth become homeless within the first 18 months of emancipation.
  • Twenty seven percent (27%) of the homeless population spent time in foster care.
  • Youth in foster care are 44% less likely to graduate from high school and after emancipation, 40 – 50 percent never complete high school.
  • Girls in foster care are six times more likely to give birth before the age of 21 than the general population.
  • Sixty percent (60%) of women who emancipate from foster care become parents within 2.5-4 years after exiting care.
  • (Research shows that foster youth have a better chance of getting pregnant or going to prison, than getting a degree.)


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