Former Foster Youth Achieve Academic Success With Help Of UCLA Program

Many young people think of graduation when the calendar reaches June. However, for a disturbing number of the nation’s foster youth, graduating from college can seem out of reach. UCLA’s Bruin Guardian Scholars Program is looking to change that by helping former foster youth overcome the obstacles they face. The UCLA Newsroomreports:

While almost all students head for home or go on vacation during holidays and academic breaks, many former foster youth have no place to go. To help them, Bruin Guardian Scholars….provide year-round housing. Bruin Guardian Scholars also is a one-stop resource center for these students, providing community-building social events, monthly academic and enrichment workshops, student employment opportunities, and help in navigating financial aid and scholarship opportunities.

Two of the students in the program–Julian Ramirez and Ashley Williams–are set to graduate this Friday, June 15:

[Williams] freely tells of the struggles she and her twin brother experienced growing up. “My mom was on drugs and had us living pillar to post with her friends,” she said. “She was very verbally and physically abusive to my brother and me.”

Ramirez…is one of eight children who were constantly being placed in foster care because of their father’s violence and their mother’s drug addiction, he said.

Despite many obstacles, Williams will graduate with a degree in sociology and Ramirez with a degree in political science. Both look forward to attending graduate school as well. Their success has been hailed as another example of the Guardian Scholar Program’s success:

“These students beat the odds because of the way they are extraordinary, because they created a vibrant community, and also because of the way staff and faculty at UCLA have stepped up to create a network of support,” [Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Janina] Montero said. “Now, we are beyond thrilled to have a whole group of them receiving their degrees … and most achieved this important milestone in four years!”

Looking forward, Williams acknowledges both the challenges that lie ahead and all she has gained from her time atUCLA:

“It’s amazing, but scary at the same time,” Williams said of leaving UCLA. But because of Bruin Guardian Scholars, she added, “You have students who are graduating, who are becoming leaders, who see that there is someone out there who actually cares for them and recognizes their struggle and who they are.”