A group of students and their patronsCaption: This year's class of graduating Guardian Scholars and their campus and community supporters, from left, front row: scholar Tara Nicole Ibe, Lucy Davis, scholar Alina Jin-Marcellus, Allen Boerner, Vikki Vargas and Interim President Willie Hagan; back row, Ron Davis, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Silas Abrego, Onikah Porter, Samar Abu-Qamar, Talitha James, Kevin Villicana, Cody Lyn Brown and Danny Martin. Photo: Matt Gush Download Photo

Changed Lives

Guardian Scholars Program Graduates Eight Former Foster Youth

Eight former foster youth are realizing their dream of earning a college degree this year — thanks to Cal State Fullerton’s Guardian Scholars program.

As members of the Class of 2012, they are taking part in the university’s May 19-20 commencement exercises.

The Guardian Scholars program, begun in 1998 in collaboration with Orangewood Children’s Foundation, was established to help foster youth attain a college education and succeed both personally and professionally. The program is committed to supporting students exiting the foster care system and offering them a comprehensive academic and social program that contributes to the quality and depth of the student’s university experience, said Grace Castillo Johnson, program director.

“Despite the difficulties and disappointments they have experienced early in their lives, our scholars receive the educational and interpersonal skills necessary to become self-supporting and competent professionals in their selected fields,” said Johnson.

Emancipated foster youth selected as Guardian Scholars receive year-round housing, financial aid, counseling, academic tutoring and support while attending CSUF. Even after graduation, mentoring and networking opportunities are provided to help students with their career goals.

The program is funded primarily through partnerships and donations of campus and community individuals, private foundations and corporations. Currently, the program has 35 Guardian Scholars with 14 new students joining the program this fall.

This year’s graduating Guardian Scholars, their city of residences and majors, are:

Samar Abu-Qamar of Fullerton, B.S. health science, volunteered as a peer mentor for the Orangewood Children’s Foundation and completed an internship with community partners, the Lestonnac Free Clinic and St. Jude Medical Center. Her volunteer work exceeded 150 hours this year. She plans to pursue a master's degree in public health.

Cody Lyn Brown of Fullerton, B.S. human services, was a student member of California Youth Connection and Guardian Scholars Advisory Board. She was involved in the California Caucus on Foster Youth and worked as a student assistant in the university's Career Center. This summer, she will intern at Donahue Schriber, a Guardian Scholars donor and community partner.

Tara Nicole Ibe of Fullerton, B.S. health science, served as a volunteer at Children’s Hospital of Orange County with her work exceeding 150 hours this year. She shadowed a urologist and is studying for the exam to become a certified health education specialist. She also plans to apply for graduate school to become a physician’s assistant.

Talitha James of Fullerton, B.S. human services, participated in the California Youth Connection, served on the Guardian Scholars Advisory Board, and was a peer mentor for Guardian Scholars and youth at the Orangewood Children’s Foundation. James has been honored for her work with homeless women and will spend the summer in Washington, D.C., as an intern at the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Alina Jin-Marcellus of Fullerton, B.A. business administration, is fluent in Mandarin and Korean, a member of CSUF’s Finance Association and works part time as a business development representative. She will intern this summer at Donahue Schriber, a Guardian Scholars donor and community partner.

Danny Martin of Inglewood, B.A. sociology, worked in University Advancement assisting with solicitation of alumni donations and represented Guardian Scholars at the Animo Latino Young Men’s Conference in 2011. A creative and artistic individual, Martin donated several pieces of art to the Guardian Scholars art wall and is employed with a local after-school program.

Onikah Porter of Fullerton, B.A. history, participated in California Youth Connection, served on the Guardian Scholars Advisory Board and was a peer mentor for the Orangewood Children’s Foundation. She works at the Orange County Department of Education in Foster Youth Services and plans to spend a year traveling abroad in Latin America to practice her Spanish-speaking skills before pursuing graduate studies in law and social work.

Kevin Villicana of Fullerton, B.S. in kinesiology, was involved with California Youth Connection, representing Guardian Scholars in Sacramento. He served on the Guardian Scholars Student Advisory Committee and participated in intramural sports throughout his college years. He works at the Honda Center and Angel Stadium.

Top of Story