Bishop Kevin Vann, leader of the Diocese of Orange — the 10th largest diocese in the United States — spent time on campus today, meeting with President Mildred García, as well as students from the Guardian Scholars program , which supports former foster youth, and the Titan Dreamers Resource Center, which provides undocumented students with academic and emotional support.
During the informal gathering, students shared some of their stories. “Dreamers” spoke of the frustration of trying to navigate an educational system that doesn’t always recognize their problems and, in some cases, hides their undocumented status. Many indicated that they chose to come to Cal State Fullerton because of the Titan Dreamers Resource Center.
“This is a safe area for us,” said one student. “Here we receive support and assistance.”
Another stated: “I was disappointed when I graduated from high school because, in spite of my good grades, I didn’t have access to any financial aid because of my undocumented status. I attended community college, but lost motivation. Then I heard about the resource center at Fullerton and I decided to transfer here. Now I have support and encouragement and people who can help me navigate the higher education system.”
Guardian Scholars described how the program has impacted their lives. After being placed in group homes or foster homes, and often without guidance from parents, Guardian Scholars seize the opportunities to learn and advance toward their goal of graduating.
Then it was Vann’s turn to speak.
“I grew up in what you’d call an average family,” he said. “I am the oldest of six. My mother was a maternity nurse who was always taking care of families, and my father was a postal worker who sometimes had to work more than one job. But they devoted themselves to always doing for others. That way of life drew me to the ministry.”
Prior to his installation as bishop in the Diocese of Orange, he served as bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, home to many undocumented, Spanish-speaking families. Sometimes these families would ask him to come pray with them in their homes or garages because they didn’t want to attract attention to themselves and run the risk of being reported.
“I understand how frightening this can be, but don’t be discouraged,” he told the students. “You need to support one another. Nothing is more challenging than feeling all alone. By your example, you provide encouragement to others.”