Transitioning from high school to college can be very difficult for students, but the transition can be even harder for former and current foster youth, wards of the court and unaccompanied homeless youth.
Many of these young adults lack physical, mental and financial assistance, which is a crucial support system. At Sonoma State the only program currently available for these former foster youth is the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP).
Members of the Sonoma State community are in the beginning stages of creating a Seawolf Scholars Program that would give these students the help they need to be successful in college and in the work world.
“We want to create a program that provides mentoring and advising as well as social activities to build a community where the students can relate to each other,” said the Director of Transition Programs Julie Greathouse.
It is often hard for EOP faculty to identity former foster youth. The EOP program cannot help them if they choose not to identify themselves.
As far as they know there are currently only 40 former foster youth attending Sonoma State.
“Many of these students prefer to not identify with their pasts because they want to start clean, and that’s ok,” said Greathouse. “We want to help the ones who need it.”
Programs for former foster youth have been created at 13 out of the 23 California State Universities. These include programs such as the Guardian Scholars, Renaissance Scholars and CME Society. The goal is to give students the support and help they need in order to have a successful college career and reach their employment goals.
They work toward this goal by assisting students in a variety of ways. Students receive help with advising, financial aid, housing, employment opportunities and career goals. They assist students beginning in their freshman year and provide continued support through graduation. According to the CSU website there are currently 493 former foster youth in these programs on CSU campuses.
The first of these programs was the Guardian Scholars program, which was created in 1998 at California State University Fullerton, and was the first of its kind in the country.
The Seawolf Scholars Program is still in the beginning stages. The EOP office in Salazar 1060 is having open meetings with students to discuss the details of the program and how to make it as beneficial as possible. The meetings also inform students of the services that are available for them now as well as how to utilize them.
Currently, EOP students receive priority registration. They are also given year-round campus housing because many of them do not have a place to move during holidays and summer. They can also receive help with signing up for financial aid.
Many of the services provided for foster youth are done on a volunteer basis, and the Seawolf Scholars Program would help give structure to the services that are already being provided. The program would also make peer advising more accessible since many students respond better to assistance from a peer because they can relax and relate.
EOP hopes to create a community where students can feel safe and connected to others. They want students to feel as though they are not alone and know that others have gone through similar experiences.
The development and implementation of the Seawolf Scholars Program will provide support for former and current foster youth, wards of the court and unaccompanied homeless youth that attend Sonoma State. Student input is still needed in order to create a program that will support students throughout their college career. Students who are interested in giving their feedback or suggestions are urged to speak with someone in the EOP Office, which is located in Salazar 1060.