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Largest Class of Guardian Scholars to Graduate


May 29, 2003 :: No. 248

Guardian Scholar graduate Zigmond Berridge, President Gordon and Ron Davis
Business major and Garden Grove resident Zigmond Berridge, center, is congratulated by CSUF President Milton A. Gordon, right, along with alumnus and chair of the Guardian Scholars Advisory Board, Ron Davis, left.

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Some may call them survivors. Others may marvel at the incredible journeys they’ve already taken in their young lives. However one envisions them, come this weekend, seven Guardian Scholars will join several thousand of their peers in caps and gowns as members of Cal State Fullerton’s Class of 2003 — and will be the largest graduating class since the program’s inception.

More than just a scholarship, the Guardian Scholars program acknowledges the accomplishments of students who have left the foster care system, were wards of the court or come from similar backgrounds. Lacking even basic resources during the transition to adulthood, they are willing but not yet able to help themselves fully — often struggling without families and the financial, emotional and psychological safety nets that their classmates rely on.

The graduating scholars are:
Joanne Armstrong of Santa Ana, who will receive her B.S. in child and adolescent development. Currently working as a group counselor to help abused and neglected children at Orangewood Children’s Home, she plans to enroll in USC’s School of Social Work in 2004 and pursue her dreams of becoming a social worker and child advocate.

• Business major and Garden Grove resident Zigmond Berridge recently interned with Granite Investments and, in addition to raising two daughters with his wife, works at Orangewood Children’s Foundation as a site coordinator for the Rising Tide Program — a transitional housing program designed to assist former foster youth in their efforts toward self-sufficiency.

Hilda Chavez-Williams of Fullerton also graduates with a B.S. in child and adolescent development. During a semester abroad in London last spring, she met her future husband, who she will join in England after the summer. Chavez plans to become a teacher and earn an advanced degree in education.

• Buena Park resident Tiffany Garcia is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies. She recently began working as a preschool teacher and will begin Fullerton’s teaching credential program this fall.

• Anaheim resident and theatre and dance major Jason McBeath recently returned from Washington, D.C., where he competed for the top acting award during the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. He facilitated a “Day of Reflection” for students struggling with the traumatic events of Sept. 11. McBeath, who starred in the tile role of this month’s campus production of “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” will pursue an acting career following graduation.

Amber Peek of Anaheim will earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology. Her goals include working with young children and having an impact on their lives.

• Business major and Fountain Valley resident Aaron Terreri has worked at various financial institutions and expanded his knowledge of real estate management. Ultimately, he hopes to earn an M.B.A. with a concentration in finance.

In addition to providing funds, the Guardian Scholars program offers assistance in navigating campus life in and outside the classroom — on-campus housing and employment opportunities, counseling, peer and faculty mentoring programs, financial aid application assistance and enrollment in the university’s Fullerton First Year program.

Since its inception in 1998, and believed to be the first program of its kind in California, Guardian Scholars has served as a model for other institutions — UC Irvine, Fullerton College, Chapman University, Cal Poly Pomona, Orange Coast College, Hope University, Concordia University and American Career College — that have created similar programs to serve foster youth.

Media Contacts: Jenny Mohr, director of Guardian Scholars, 657-278-4900 or jmohr@fullerton.edu
Gail Matsunaga, Public Affairs, 657-278-4851 or gmatsunaga@fullerton.edu

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