Talitha JamesCaption: Guardian Scholar Talitha James plans to become a social worker. Photo by Karen Tapia

About Affirmation

Guardian Scholar Finds Words of Encouragement Key to Success

HER MOTHER was declared unfit to raise her, so Talitha James grew up in and out of group and foster homes. She cried herself to sleep night after night for years until someone told her she was destined to do great things, have goals, go to college.

“Positive words of affirmation helped me become the person I am today,” James said. “Those individuals who told me, ‘Talitha, you’re going to be something special one day,’ when I could barely see the light at the end of the tunnel provided me with encouragement and strength to complete high school and realize that going to college was an option.”

She credits a teacher, an aunt and a social worker for that encouragement.

Today, the Cal State Fullerton human services major and Guardian Scholar plans to complete her degree in May and pursue graduate school on her way to becoming a social worker.

Meanwhile, she is spending her senior year on campus as co-president of the campus student group Christ Our Redeemer North. The organization, which holds services at 11 a.m. every Sunday in the Titan Student Union pub, is hosting a special Black History Month event Feb. 28.

The free 7 p.m. event, “Racial Matters,” is a panel discussion about race and related issues to be held in the Tuffree Room of the Titan Student Union. Panelists include Andre Coleman, author of "Blackbirds"; Rev. Salim Faraji, professor of Africana studies at Cal State Dominguez Hills; and CSUF student Ashley Fortinian.

“I felt it necessary to have this event after reading an article about Attorney General Eric Holder urging people of all ages to use Black History Month as a chance for frank talk about racial matters,” James said.

As an African American and former foster youth, she said she’s learned that even “if no one else believes in you, you need to believe in yourself and never apologize for who you are.”

Besides leading COR North, James also works as a peer mentor for Orangewood Children’s Foundation, helping kids growing up in foster care.

“My past inspires me to become the best person I can be,” James said. “Failure is not an option. There is no reason why any foster youth who has the desire to go to college, shouldn't go to college. Education is the way out. I know what it’s like to feel that you are just another case number in the foster care system. And, I want to send out an SOS to all foster youth to let them know that dreams really do come true."

One of James’ human services instructors, Michelle Berelowitz, director of the university’s Center for Community Collaboration, calls her “an amazing young woman.”

“Talitha is a role model for all youth and specifically foster youth,” Berelowitz said. “She inspires others to never lose hope and continue to fulfill their potential."

James delivered a moving speech about her life at the 9th annual Community Forum on the Conditions of Children in Orange County held on campus in November.

She concluded with this: “If I had one wish for today, it would be for those individuals who work within the child welfare system to take the time to plant a seed of affirmation. The path of higher education started when somebody planted a seed in my life. Here I stand before you today, still growing, solidly rooted with endless possibilities for my future."

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