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Graduating Guardian Scholars Saluted

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A realization of dreams and the anticipation of promising futures set the celebratory tone when faculty and staff members, donors and friends gathered May 6 for Cal State Fullerton’s annual Guardian Scholars Recognition Reception to honor six graduating seniors.

The Guardian Scholars Program  awards former foster youth a full scholarship to the University and provides the additional support — including mentoring and counseling — needed to help them achieve their educational and personal goals and transition to self-sufficient adulthood.

Established at Cal State Fullerton in 1998, the collaborative partnership between public agencies and the private sector, was the first of its kind in the nation. Since then, nearly 100 scholars have earned CSUF degrees.

Berenecia Johnson Eanes, vice president for student affairs, welcomed the audience and thanked donors, faculty, staff and administrators for their support. “I know all of you have a true understanding of the value of your contributions and how we transform lives at Cal State Fullerton.”

“Thank you all for being here to celebrate these very important students, our Guardian Scholars,” said President Mildred García. “While the expression ‘Titans Reach Higher’ underscores the incredible drive of our students on a campus of more than 38,000, it really describes our Guardian Scholars. While less than three percent of foster youth go on to graduate college, the retention rate of our Guardian Scholars is more than 70 percent, which even exceeds the Universitywide average.”

She mentioned one scholar who explained it as “We’re stuck in the cycle and the only way to break out of it is by getting an education.”

García also described the efforts of scholars to reach out and support others from similar backgrounds.

“This past year, with the help of the program’s staff, our scholars conducted 14 outreach events for more than 500 foster youth and performed more than 466 hours of volunteer service.”

She added that the scholars’ achievements are made possible by their perseverance and by those in our community whose support enables them to realize their dreams.

This year more than $580,000 was donated to the program to support scholarships and programming for student leadership, career and personal development activities.

Graduating scholars had the opportunity to share their reflections and experiences. Tim Alexander, who will graduate with a B.F.A. in theatre arts with a concentration in acting, spoke about his personal journey.

“I came to this university at risk of homelessness. Thanks to the Guardian Scholars program, I was afforded a full scholarship to focus on my educational experience, my personal growth and my professional development.”

While Alexander described how he flourished at Cal State Fullerton, he emphasized his passion to give back.

“My entire life, all I wanted was a place to call home. You have all made a huge impact on my life, and the least I can do is show someone else the love and support that I’ve received these past five years.

“No matter how far I go, Cal State Fullerton and my time here will always be my home. I want to pave the way forward for other students like myself, and prove that with the power and support of loving and hardworking individuals, a student lacking financial and parental support can graduate from college.”

Alexander plans to return to Cal State Fullerton to pursue a master’s degree in higher education.

Other graduating scholars and degrees are:

  • Mitchell Demedenko (B.A. business administration)
  • Kristina Hilliard (B.A. communications-journalism)
  • Byron Marsh (B.A. psychology)
  • Katelyn Migliacci (B.A. psychology)
  • Carlos Zelaya (B.A. sociology)