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Incoming Guardian Scholars were welcomed into the program at the annual May banquet. The program supports former foster youth in their pursuit of a college degree. Photo by Karen Tapia

Heading Off to College

Former Foster Youth Become Guardian Scholars

July 20, 2010

For 14 former foster youth, their lives are about to change as they head for college this fall at Cal State Fullerton.

Young adults who have experienced difficult and challenging childhoods, they are the newest of the university’s Guardian Scholars.

As scholars, they will enter the program either as freshmen or community college transfers and receive myriad support services to help them reach their higher education goals.

When these youth turn 18 and are emancipated, they often are without family or financial support to go to college, said Grace Johnson, Guardian Scholars program director, noting that the program serves as a resource, assisting them in their personal development and equipping them with the educational and interpersonal skills necessary to become self-supporting, community leaders, role models and competent, college-educated professionals in their selected fields.

The Guardian Scholars Program was founded on campus in 1998 in collaboration with Orangewood Children’s Foundation. Since its inception, 68 former foster youth, including this year’s 10 graduates, have earned bachelor’s degrees. Nearly 70 percent of the students who participate in Guardian Scholars graduate or are retained in the program, Johnson said.

Joining the program are the following students, including their city of residence and major:

  • Samar Abu-Qamar, Costa Mesa, health science
  • Gina Duran-Calandri, Rialto, psychology
  • Amparo Estevane, La Verne, undeclared
  • Richard Gierman, Corona, undeclared
  • Tafari Gonzalez-Aird, Whittier, radio-TV-film
  • Ashley Harris, Orange, undeclared
  • Kristina Hilliard, Fullerton, undeclared
  • Crystal Lopez, Downey, theatre arts
  • Erica Martinez, Anaheim, undeclared
  • Katelyn Migliacci, Simi Valley, undeclared
  • Rich Mowdy, Norco, business administration
  • Mellony Palma, Corona, business administration
  • Melissa Rodgers, Anaheim, undeclared
  • Elizabeth Villegas, Mira Loma, psychology


Media Contacts:

Grace Johnson, Guardian Scholars, 657-278-5493 or
Debra Cano Ramos, Public Affairs, 657-278-4027; 657-278-2414 or

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