Spotlight on: Guardian Scholars

Program provides a source of family for foster youth

Guardian Scholars

SUPPORT NETWORK— For social work majors Shatesha Morris (left) and Christina Sakamoto, the Guardian Scholars Program is like family.

Each year, 2,000 California foster youth turn 18 and must leave protective care. While the state provides funds for college tuition, housing and medical care, emancipated foster youth often lack a support system—someone to call when the car breaks down, a shoulder to cry on after a bad test or a bad breakup, a place to go for Thanksgiving dinner.

At Sac State, former foster youth turn to the Guardian Scholars Program for that care network, along with more college-specific guidance. Guardian Scholars provides financial advising, academic assistance, career counseling, scholarships, social support in the form of mentors and the camaraderie of other students with a shared experience. In essence, an extended family.

For social work majors Shatesha Morris and Christina Sakamoto, the Guardian Scholars Program is much more than a service.

Growing up around drug use and living in a Salvation Army shelter, Morris says she felt neglected and in search of attention. Now that is no longer the case.

“Guardian Scholars has made me feel welcome,” says Morris. “It’s definitely a second family for me.”

Sakamoto needed a place to stay after a series of arguments with her husband and she knew where to turn for support. 

“The mentors and other students opened their houses up,” Sakamoto says. “They were by my side the whole time and it showed they truly care.” 

The Guardian Scholars office in Lassen Hall is also a home-away-from-home for its students. 

“The office is the hangout. Everyone is usually there, especially near the food closet,” says Sakamoto. “It’s been a lifesaver.”

Troy Bailey, MA ’14 (Higher Education Leadership) wrote his thesis on foster youth in higher education. He found the program a reliable source that also inspired him to become a mentor.

“The Guardian Scholars is a safe haven for former foster youth who need a direction to academic success,” Bailey says.

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