Former foster youth are beating the odds

JUNE 9, 2016

Rina Hu, John Hanson and Mary De Luna

Rina Hu, John Hanson and Mary De Luna are three of the many former foster youth at SF State who have found a path to success in the Guardian Scholars Program. Photo by Eric Millette.

Most students spend holiday breaks with their families. However this is not usually an option for SF State students from the foster care system. Providing housing during the holidays is just one of the many features that distinguish SF State’s Guardian Scholars Program (GSP) from other foster youth initiatives. GSP helps 80 students a year transition successfully from foster care into college. In addition to housing and registration assistance, GSP distinctively provides foster youth with a holistic, wellness-oriented approach to a suite of wrap-around services. GSP assigns case managers to students to monitor their academic progress, provides access to tutoring and mental health services and coordinates job and internship opportunities that can pave the way to a successful post-college career. Practically speaking, GSP staff tries to provide the kind of everyday support most students would get from a family.

The results speak for themselves. Guardian Scholars at SF State have achieved a 75% graduation rate, 25% higher than the general University average – and much higher than the 2-3% graduation rate nationally for foster youth with no dedicated, personalized support.



Making an Impact

Beverly Benson & Pamela Farmer

Once they age out of the foster care system a significant number of foster youth end up homeless and without career skills. Hearing this in a story from National Public Radio led Beverly Benson and Pamela Farmer to act. Beverly, who holds a Ph.D. in pharmacology and toxicology, and Pamela, an M.D., turned to the internet to learn more about programs for local foster youth and in doing so discovered the Guardian Scholars Program at SF State. Compelled to give back to their community they joined the visionary foundations, business partners, alumni and friends who together provide 90% of the funds our GSP students and staff rely on each year.

As they became more involved in the program, Beverly and Pamela were moved by the first-hand accounts of students who found a way forward thanks to the comprehensive assistance GSP offers. “What impressed me was how the Guardian Scholars Program is so complete in what it provides students,” remarked Beverly referring to the wrap-around support that each GSP student receives. “These students have overcome so much just to get to college. The Guardian Scholars Program really sets them up to succeed.” In September 2016, Beverly and Pamela hosted a luncheon at their home to introduce the Guardian Scholars Program to members of the LGBT community and other friends. The event raised more than $28,000 for the program.


Beverly Benson and Pamela Farmer