August 17, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Santa Monica College Guardian Scholars Program Fosters Achievement:

When Marilyn Perez-Garcia ended up in foster care at age 15, college seemed an unachievable dream. This fall, after three years at Santa Monica College — with the support of SMC’s Guardian Scholars program and her own hard work — she is headed to the University of California, Riverside on a full scholarship.

The SMC Guardian Scholars program provides support services to foster youth, a population for whom educational disparities are a harsh reality.

According to the National Working Group on Foster Care and Education, although 84 percent of high school-aged foster youth want to attend college, only 20 percent of those who graduate from high school move on to college, while only 2 percent to 9 percent of former foster youth obtain a bachelor’s degree.

To break that pattern, the Guardian Scholars program offers academic, financial aid and mental health counseling as well as career planning and workshops addressing essential life skills such as stress management and financial literacy.

Six SMC Guardian Scholars, including Perez-Garcia—who eventually plans to go to law school or a master’s program in psychology—are transferring to four-year institutions this year.

“I was pretty lost when I went in there,” says Perez-Garcia of the Guardian Scholars office. “They helped me find my way into the right courses so I could eventually transfer. The most beneficial thing was being able to walk into the Guardian Scholars office knowing that they’d never turn me away, even if I just came in there to talk.”

Debra Joseph-Locke, the senior student services specialist who oversees Guardian Scholars at SMC, prides herself on maintaining an open-door policy. “I tell students I will see them at any time if I’m not in another meeting,” she says. “Many stop by because they are in crisis.”

Housing and hunger are among the biggest challenges. “Many are homeless or living in their car,” says Joseph-Locke. “They don’t necessarily tell you that right off the bat. It takes time to gain their trust.”

Students who self-identify as foster youth in their financial aid or SMC applications are then contacted about the Guardian Scholars program. The program also receives referrals from high schools, caregivers and social workers.

Those who choose to join Guardian Scholars complete a short in-take application and then meet with Joseph-Locke one-on-one to arrange counseling and other support—from housing to medication and from food assistance to transportation support to ensure they can get to and from their classes. The staff even helps students register for auto insurance if needed, and students are reimbursed for non-tuition expenses like the health fee.

SMC received a three year grant from the Angell Foundation of $48,000 per year to establish Guardian Scholars, and additional support came through grants from the S. Mark Taper Foundation, as well as the Stuart Foundation and the Sidney Stern Memorial Trust.

Meanwhile, partnerships with UCLA and Loyola Marymount University give participants access to information on transferring to universities and activities to enhance their academic futures and build a network of support. Organized visits to the UCLA and LMU campuses, as well as California State University, Northridge; and California State University, Los Angeles, also help student make decisions about the best fit for their academic ambitions.

Now in its third year, the SMC Guardian Scholars program is steadily growing. The first year saw 59 students enter the program, with 75 participating the second year. “We expect even more for the third year,” says Joseph-Locke, adding that many more who are eligible have not yet taken advantage of the program because of the stigma associated with foster care.

“Those who choose not to join are often those who need it the most,” she says. “We provide support, not labeling. We make them feel part of the fabric of the college.”

The three year grant from the Angell Foundation runs out in June 2016 and SMC will seek new funding for Guardian Scholars including through SB 1023, a bill signed by Governor Brown last September which authorized the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office to provide additional funds to up to 10 selected community college districts for special support services for foster youth.

In April, SMC Guardian Scholars held its first awareness week—designed not just to spread word about the program but also to break down stereotypes about foster youth.

“They want to be productive,” says Joseph-Locke. “They want to be advocates and serve others. Many go into service careers, like social work.”

Perez-Garcia—who helped other foster youth by interning at the juvenile dependency court—says that, while she was bullied in high school for being put into foster care, she felt accepted by Guardian Scholars. “My message to anyone in foster care is to know that education is truly a chance at a better life,” she says.

in News
Related Posts

Burglary Suspect Arrested in Santa Monica With Stolen Property in Possession

August 16, 2022

August 16, 2022

SMPD detectives believe suspect is responsible for other thefts in the area By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica police over the...

Americana in the Park Concert Series Returns to Santa Monica’s Gandara Park this September

August 16, 2022

August 16, 2022

McCabe’s Guitar Shop partners with the City for a celebration of Americana music McCabe’s Guitar Shop, in partnership with the...

Anne Heche Dies Following Mar Vista Crash

August 16, 2022

August 16, 2022

Actress dies at 53 due to injuries sustained in August 5 crash By Sam Catanzaro Anne Heche has died at...

Police Seek Publics Help In Identifying Victims Of Sexual Assault By Registered Sex Offender: Santa Monica Beat – August 15th, 2022

August 15, 2022

August 15, 2022

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes.* Police Seek Publics Help In Identifying Victims Of Sexual Assault By Registered...

Man Arrested for Santa Monica’s Second Homicide of the Year

August 15, 2022

August 15, 2022

Lamont E. Horton arrested in connection to August 11 murder By Sam Catanzaro A man was arrested by Santa Monica...

Sunset Park Custom Home Lists For First Time Ever By Original Builders $5.9M: Santa Monica Real Estate Report – August 15th, 2022

August 15, 2022

August 15, 2022

Property, Developments, and Listings on the Westside.* City Council Votes to Unanimously Backs Proposal to Cut Rent Increases* Sunset Park...

Construction Begins on Michigan Avenue Affordable Housing Development

August 13, 2022

August 13, 2022

The new development will replace the Santa Monica Nikkei Hall By Dolores Quintana ​​A new affordable housing project has begun...

Column: Time to Crack Down on Vacant Homes’ Owners

August 12, 2022

August 12, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist ​​There is no doubt California has a housing shortage. That’s fact even in the wake of...

Metro To Hold Community Meetings About Potential Green Line Extension

August 12, 2022

August 12, 2022

By Dolores Quintana Los Angeles Metro is holding a series of public meetings to discuss extending the Metro C or...

Another Mountain Lion Dies After Being Hit by a Car

August 12, 2022

August 12, 2022

P-89 found dead along the shoulder of the 101 Freeway in Woodland Hills last month By Sam Catanzaro Another mountain...

Santa Monica Police Arrest Sexual Assualt Suspect

August 12, 2022

August 12, 2022

Anthony Barrett arrested in connection to June 28 assault By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica police are seeking the public’s help...

LA City Council Approves Expanded Anti-Camping Ordinance

August 11, 2022

August 11, 2022

Bonin one of three not votes in expansion of LAMC section 41.18 Los Angeles City Council has banned homeless encampments...

Review: A Santa Monica Restaurant’s New Happy Hour is Top-Notch

August 10, 2022

August 10, 2022

By Dolores Quintana Birdie G’s in Santa Monica has a new Happy Hour and it is something special. For one...