Victoria grew up in an environment that was more akin to third world country standards than the America that we see on television. In a somber home marred with violence, addiction and frequent police raids, she sought solace in education. Victoria was homeless by middle school and forced to quit school to care for her four younger sisters. Recently, Victoria was clearly overcome. She just earned her master’s in business administration.
On Friday, June 27, Victoria and 84 other foster youth were recognized during a ceremony at the Del Mar Country Club to applaud their academic achievements. The students are all foster youth who are beating the odds and realizing their dreams of a higher education as part of Promises2Kids Guardian Scholars.
At the June 27 private event, Promises2Kids administrators welcomed the graduates as well as the new class of Guardian Scholars in front of an intimate audience of about 100 people including sponsors and private donors. A total of 12 students graduated this year with three of the Guardian Scholars continuing their education through the program. Seventy former foster youth were awarded into this year’s 2014-15 program. The ceremony provided the opportunity to honor these youth who have overcome so many obstacles in their lives and have set their sights on their future and success.
This year’s class of Guardian Scholars will head off to universities such as University of California, Irvine and University of California, San Diego to pursue careers as lawyers, communications, business administration, nursing and social work.
For most of these foster youth, college never seemed like an option until they found out about Promises2Kids Guardian Scholars. Recent statistics show over 50 percent of college students rely on their families for financial support. What if you didn’t have that family to support you? Guardian Scholars offers that extended family to former foster youth by providing the financial support and encouragement a family would typically provide. It is the safety net and support network they need to thrive emotionally and succeed educationally. For those who graduated this year, this day most likely would not have been possible without the support of Promises2Kids.
As part of its mission to create a brighter future for foster youth in San Diego County, Promises2Kids’ Guardian Scholars provides a network of resources that encourages foster youth to pursue higher education through community college, trade school or a university degree. The highly successful program provides former foster youth with a partial financial scholarship along with critical multi-faceted support through mentoring, SAT prep, college planning and financial aid workshops to assist them in adapting to and excelling in a higher education setting. Guardian Scholars exposes these college bound foster youth to higher education and career opportunities they might not otherwise explore.
“When these children leave foster care, they face even more challenges as adults. They’re completely alone. Promises2Kids Guardian Scholars changes their odds for success. We provide hope – we provide the types of things youth look for from a family – emotional and financial support,” said Tonya Torosian, CEO, Promises2Kids. “Currently for every youth Promises2Kids is able to support through Guardian Scholars, we have to turn away two aspiring youth due to limited funding. This next year, the commitment is to increase the support to a total of 100 youth who have the commitment to higher education.”
Due to generous support of Promises2Kids Guardian Scholars from Qualcomm, Sleep Train, Ashford University, Stuart Foundation and ICW Group, the program realized a 50 percent increase in the number of students funded for this coming year. Promises2Kids goal is to award 100 students this next year. Another exciting recent addition to the Promises2Kids program is Junior Guardian Scholars. Fifteen students who are entering their senior year of high school will continue in this innovative immersion program for 2014-15. Another 10 who piloted the program expansion, will graduate high school, a 100 percent graduation rate compared the to national average of 50 percent, will be beginning college in the fall and are a part of those who were awarded.
“When I have had some down moments, Promises2Kids Guardian Scholars was there to help. I could always count on Guardian Scholars to be there when I needed. Not just financially but emotionally as well. I am deeply grateful for everything I have been given by Guardian Scholars,” shared Rebekah, another foster youth whose journey through foster care was long and arduous. She was placed in foster care at the age of 2 and aged out after graduating from high school. Rebekah went through eight foster homes and several group homes, having had multiple foster siblings.
Despite these obstacles, Rebekah has persevered and is now pursuing a master’s degree to continue her work with children who have autism.
At the June 27 ceremony, there were plenty of tears of joy as each Guardian Scholar took a moment at the lectern to introduce them selves — and share their dream for their future.
For more information about Promises2Kids and the Guardian Scholars, visit www.Promises2Kids.org or call 858-427-1109. Photos by McKenzie Images. For photos online, visit www.rsfreview.com.