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Sac State Fashion Show aids former foster youth


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The upcoming Guardian Scholars Fashion Show is more than just a fundraiser for the Sac State program that supports emancipated foster youth – it’s a confidence builder, a networking opportunity, and a chance for the participants to know the experience of dressing up and having a good time with their peers.

Guardian Fashion Show 2012

Mark Hamlett and Brittany Chamalbide will be participating in the Guardian Scholars Fashion Show on Sunday, Oct. 7.

The theme of this year’s soiree is “California Dreamin’ ” and runs 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7, in the University Union Ballroom. It includes emancipated foster youth as well as younger teens still in foster care. Funds are raised through ticket sales, donations, a silent auction and raffles throughout the evening. Funds from last year’s event have provided five, $5,000 scholarships, $5,000 for smaller aid packages, and funding for programs that cover needs for young people still in foster care, says Joy Salvetti, Guardian Scholars program director.

When young people in the state’s foster care program turn 18, they no longer receive state support. Many are left to fend for themselves right out of high school, with few prospects for decent jobs or higher education.

Guardian Scholars offers help to those young people attending Sacramento State by providing scholarships, stipends, financial aid, school supplies and mentoring by campus faculty, staff and members of the community. This year they are helping 62 students.

Brittany Chamalbide is a fourth-year student majoring in Health Science. Since becoming emancipated she has worked two jobs and received scholarships, grants and financial aid, and still wouldn’t have been able to make it without the help of Guardian Scholars.

Fourth-year student Mark Hamlett, a Criminal Justice major, agrees. He found out about Guardian Scholars through his high school counselor.

Chamalbide and Hamlett each have modeled and helped backstage during previous Fashion Shows. Chamalbide hopes to model again this year, and Hamlett will help behind the scenes.

Besides raising funds for scholarships, the show provides more intangible, but nonetheless important, benefits for the participants. It teaches them how to work cooperatively, plan and coordinate a large event, and to just enjoy themselves.

“It’s a special moment,” Chamalbide says. “When you get dressed up, and you go on the runway and see all these people there who help you out, there’s just this overwhelming feeling. It’s exciting.”

“For most of these foster youth, they didn’t get a chance to go to the prom,” says Hamlett. “So this is their time to wear fancy clothes and get their hair done. It’s more … replacing something they didn’t get.”

The clothes are donated by Macy’s. While the students have to return the clothing after the show, each receives a $50 gift certificate from the department store.

The fashion show was started by the Foster Youth Education Fund, a local organization with connections to state administrative officials and local businesses, says Salvetti. When the Guardian Scholars formed in 2006, they were approached by FYEF about taking part in the show, and other fundraising events. “It’s a great collaboration,” Salvetti says. “They’ve become one of our major scholarship funders.”

Beyond the help with school costs, finding a place to live and other basics, Guardian Scholars becomes a home for its students.

“I’ve had many times when I’ve felt so alone, and they were the net to catch me,” Chamalbide says. “The fact that I know they’re here, and they’re someone I can go to and someone that I can ask for help without getting some kind of negative repercussion from it, I feel safe.”

“A lot of people think that college is just where you come, get your education, and go,” adds Hamlett. “But college is where you set up your life. Most of the people you meet in college are people who are going to be around for the rest of your life, and that’s the best thing that could happen for a former foster youth.”

Both students have high praise for Salvetti and Administrative Support Assistant Charlotte Van Wagner.

“Joy is like your school mom and Charlotte is like the aunt who calls and checks on you to make sure you got things done,” says Hamlett.

“And you can’t hide your feelings from Joy,” says Chamalbide. “She knows you.”

The program is in the midst of expansion with an offshoot called Young Guardian Scholars, Salvetti says. Each participating Guardian Scholar will be assigned three high school students to mentor, helping them to explore their own interests and determine what they want to do in life, then constructing a blueprint for academic success. “We will be showing them the pathway to get to where they want to be and achieve their goals,” Salvetti says.

Tickets to the Oct. 7 Fashion Show are $25 for adults and $15 for children and students. Tickets may also be purchased for donation to friends and relatives of the show’s participants. To buy tickets, go to or call (916) 412-7118. For more information on the Guardian Scholars, visit For media assistance, call Sacramento State’s Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.

– Craig Koscho