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Sierra College Supports Former Foster Youth as New School Year Begins

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As the school year begins, Sierra College is taking an extra step to ensure that one group of students gets off to a good start.

The Sierra College Foundation, in partnership with numerous community organizations and businesses, provided more than 140 care-packs, backpacks, pillows, quilts, hats, scarves, and afghan’s to new and returning students who were previously served by the state’s foster care system. This group of students is officially referred to as Guardian Scholars.

The care-packs are filled with basic hygiene items while the backpacks are filled with school supplies, computer flash drives, vouchers for groceries, calculators, notebooks, pens, pencils, binders, and highlighters. Sun City Roseville Needle Arts club provided each student with either a new quilt or afghan along with a new pillow case around a brand new pillow. Many faculty, staff and Sun City residents held a peanut butter and jelly campaign to be included in their care-pack.

“We are honored to be able to help these deserving students as they return to school without the family support system most of our students have,” said Sonbol Aliabadi, Executive Director of the Sierra College Foundation. “Since 2007, our community has rallied together to give these students some basic items to better prepare them for college and allow them to devote their attention to their studies.”

A welcome luncheon hosted by the Financial Aid Office and is held one week prior to the start of the semester, this year, on Wednesday, August 17th, each Guardian Scholar received their gifts and got the opportunity to connect with donors and mentors who have generously given to this project. Students often say that these gifts are extremely appreciated, but knowing that someone cared enough to give this to them makes the biggest difference in their lives.

“Thank you for your help! I have been worried and wondered how I would ever make it through College without any help. Now with your generosity and the kindness of your heart, my dream of going to College is a reality,” said Rachel, a Guardian Scholar attending Sierra College. This year Leadership Rocklin presented the Guardian Scholars Program with a list of employment mentors. These community leaders are providing mentorship opportunities for our students to learn about their industry should they wish to pursue employment in their fields.

Every year in California, an estimated 4,000 foster youth transition from dependents of the foster care system into emancipated adulthood at age eighteen. Less than 3% of this population will attend college. The California Community College system serves approximately 10,500 former and current foster youth and Sierra College will serve 100-140 of these students. These students face an extraordinary challenge to not only pay for their basic needs, but to also pay for college tuition, books, parking permit, and school supplies, which totals about $2,000 per year. This does not include the additional $3,350 it costs per semester to live on campus in the dorms.

This year the Burton Foundation partnered with the Sierra College Bookstore to offer book grants to every eligible Guardian Scholar attending Sierra College. “This grant will allow our neediest students to stretch other resources they receive from financial aid and community donations for the school year,” Said Dr. Linda Williams, Financial Aid Program Manager at Sierra College.

In November 2007, a group of staff and faculty at Sierra College decided to take action on the growing lack of resources for former foster youth. They came together and formed the College Transition Support Team (CTST) now the Guardian Scholars Advisory Group (GSAG). This volunteer group is a partnership between community foster youth services professionals and Sierra College faculty and staff addressing the needs, concerns and issues that affect the success and retention of former foster youth students attending Sierra College. In the midst of compiling educational resources for foster youth, the GSAG found a major gap in the services provided to these students. That missing piece was how to address the financial need that exists to purchase basic hygiene products and food. The current Guardian Scholars program was born from this initial group.

Major funding for the Care-Pack project came from the City of Roseville Citizens Benefit Fund & REACH Fund. Additionally generous donations were received by Wells Fargo who share our vision of creating relationships. Ten dorm rooms have also been “adopted”.  This means that when these students walk into their room for the first time, it will be outfitted with new bedding, and other items to make their dorm feel like home. Thank you to Loomis Basin, Sunset Rotary of Loomis, and other private donors for making these students feel at home.

“We are very grateful for the support provided by the City of Roseville Grant Commission, community organizations and individual donors,” said Williams. “These young people are facing significant challenges as they move on to college and these donations provide some important support for them. It demonstrates we care about them as individuals and we offer HOPE”.

If you would like to offer your support to this program or learn more about the Sierra College Foundation, visit www.sierracollege.edu/foundation. Contact the SC Foundation at 916-660-7020 or foundation@sierracollege.edu
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