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Fostering Students for College Success

Guardian Scholars Program Honored With National Award

March 24, 2009

By Debra Cano Ramos

Christine James-Brown, top right, president and CEO of the Child Welfare League of America, presents the National Fostering Educational Success Award to Cal State Fullerton’s Guardian Scholars Program. Accepting the award, from top left, are Grace Johnson, director of the Guardian Scholars Program; Giulii Kraemer, program coordinator; Ron Davis, Guardian Scholars founder with his wife, Lucy; and Guardian Scholars Christopher Andrade and Tarae Graves, seated. Photo by Erin Dey Photography/Courtesy of Child Welfare League of America

Cal State Fullerton's Guardian Scholars Program has received the National Fostering Educational Success Award for its commitment to foster youth and their pursuit of higher education.

It is the first time that an educational institution has been honored by the Child Welfare League of America for its leadership and success in providing former foster youth the support they need to attain a college education.

Established in 1998, the Guardian Scholars Program works in partnership with child welfare agencies and the community promoting educational success though a combination of financial, academic, and emotional and social support for foster youth.

The award recognizes a college, university or other accredited post-secondary education or training institution that excels in promoting educational success for current and former foster youth in a learning and living environment that is healthy, safe, nurturing and supportive.

“The Guardian Scholars program provides a national model that demonstrates that foster youth can and do succeed. We are proud to present the award and hope that the model will be replicated in all 50 states,” said Linda Spears, CWLA vice president for policy and communications.

One of the reasons Guardian Scholars is successful, said Grace Johnson, program director, is because of the support from university administration and Cal State Fullerton’s relationships with community partners.

“It takes a tremendous amount of collaboration to make a program like this work — from the internal campus teamwork, as well as our affiliations with external partners in the community, one being the Orangewood Children’s Foundation,” Johnson said. “We’re able to provide the opportunity for foster children to not only go to college, but also give them the resources they need to successfully complete their post-secondary education.”

In attendance for the Feb. 24 awards dinner in Washington, D.C. were alumnus Ron Davis, founder and supporter of the program; Scholars Christopher Andrade and Tarae Graves; Johnson; and Giulii Kraemer, program coordinator. The campus program also received a $2,500 donation from the national organization.

“This award is significant in two ways. First, Ron Davis has devoted much of his time and energy to make sure children who were raised in the foster care system have the opportunity to receive a college education and to contribute to the community as successful young adults,” said Howard Wang, associate vice president for student affairs who oversees the program, who called it an honor to receive the national recognition. “By receiving this award, we are paying tribute to Mr. Davis’ significant contribution to this program.

“Second, as the first ever program of its kind, Guardian Scholars has been the model to be duplicated by many colleges and universities in California, Washington, Colorado, Indiana and Massachusetts. Being recognized by a prestigious organization like CWLA means that we are setting the highest bar for other programs to follow — and making dreams come true for so many foster youth in our country.”

Guardian Scholars provides full scholarships, on-campus housing, employment opportunities, counseling, mentoring programs, health insurance, leadership development and other support services to meet the needs of these students, Johnson said.

A group of 41 ethnically diverse former foster youth are currently enrolled in the program, including 12 students who joined Guardian Scholars in fall 2008. Moreover, 72 percent of the students in the program have earned their degrees or still are enrolled, Johnson said. Since the program’s inception, more than 50 students have earned bachelor’s degrees.

Academic advisement and regular progress reports help students stay on task with coursework and the drop-in center provides a place to socialize and study.

Career Mapping is the newest component in the Guardian Scholars Program and provides assistance to students after graduation. In collaboration with the university’s Career Center and Student Leadership Institute, career mapping includes various career planning and development assignments students complete each semester. This also includes completing the Career Track Leadership workshops offered through leadership institute and receiving a certificate at the Guardian Scholars graduation banquet.

“While all these support services and resources assist students with their educational and career goals and interpersonal skills, they’re the ones doing the real work; they come to campus each day, attend class, study and complete assignments on time. They diligently work towards making their academic dreams a reality,” Johnson said.

Related Stories:

Program Promotes College Aspirations of Former Foster Children

Persevering to Earn Degrees

New Graduate Scholarship for Guardian Scholars


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