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Vikki Vargas, left, and President Milton A. Gordon speak to new Guardian Scholars. Photo by Mimi KoCruz

Welcome Guardian Scholars

New Cohort Joins Cal State Fullerton Student Ranks Through Program for Former Foster Youth

September 1, 2009

By Mimi Ko Cruz

From left: Karla Martinez, Giovanna Nunez, Daysi Hernandez and Marcia Osuna. Photo by Mimi Ko Cruz

A dozen emancipated foster youths have joined Cal State Fullerton’s student ranks as this year’s incoming class of Guardian Scholars.

Believed to be the first of its kind in California, the university's Guardian Scholars program was developed in collaboration with the Orangewood Children’s Foundation and launched in 1998.

In addition to financial assistance, the program serves as a resource for these students, helping them in their development and equipping them with the educational and interpersonal skills necessary to become self-supporting and to develop into community leaders, role models and adept professionals in their fields.

As the program begins its 11th year, it serves as a model for universities and colleges across the nation, said university President Milton A. Gordon, adding that the Guardian Scholars Program has demonstrated that former wards of the state can succeed with the proper guidance, direction and support.

Senior Guardian Scholars Kat Curameng, left, and Laron Brown. Photo by Mimi Ko Cruz

Hired recently to work with the students are two counselors — psychologist Charmaine Charles and therapist Anhthu Dang. Their positions are being funded by a California Wellness Foundation grant.

In addition, this year the program launched a peer-mentoring program that teams freshmen with seniors “to assist with the transition to college life,” said Giulii S. Kraemer, coordinator of the Guardian Scholars program.

On the eve of each fall semester, the Guardian Scholars are treated to a special reception hosted by CSUF alumna and NBC-4's Orange County bureau chief Vikki Vargas and her husband, Michael Nason. This year’s reception was held Aug. 23 at the Fullerton Arboretum.

Gordon welcomed the new class of Guardian Scholars, while a couple of seniors — Kat Curameng and Laron Brown — shared their own experiences and offered advice, and Vargas gave each new student a special charm called a “milagro.” Milagro is Spanish for miracle.

From left: Ryan Tew, Desiree Galton, Tara Rowlodge and Tiffany Mendoza. Photo by Mimi Ko Cruz

Vargas explained the Mexican folk custom of giving milagros — small charms that can be worn as jewelry — and wished the incoming Guardian Scholars well in their college journey.

The event “is an opportunity for the students to connect and bond with one another as they anticipate starting the fall semester,” said Grace Johnson, director of Guardian Scholars. “Many of the new students feel anxious about their first day at Cal State Fullerton and this evening provides them with support from both their peers and donors."

This year’s new Guardian Scholar class members and their majors are:

  • Tiffanie Canada, biological science
  • Jorge Cardenas, business administration
  • Andrew Dunphy, psychology
  • Daysi Hernandez, radio-TV-fillm
  • Jennifer Hixon, undeclared
  • Vanessa Holladay, undeclared
  • Talitha James, human services
  • Taron Johnson, theater
  • Karla Martinez, business administration
  • Giovanna Nunez, criminal justice
  • Marcia Osuna, criminal justice
  • Nicole Robinson, communications

There are 40 students presently in the Guardian Scholars Program, which has graduated 56 students.

For more information, visit the Guardian Scholars website.

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