San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Guardian Scholars celebrate Thanksgiving with campus meal

Guardian Scholars celebrate Thanksgiving with campus meal

The San Diego State Guardian Scholars came together Wednesday night for a Thanksgiving dinner at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center hosted by SDSU’s Educational Opportunity Programs and Ethnic Affairs.

The Guardian Scholars are a group of students who have gone through foster care, being wards of the state or even homelessness. For many Guardian Scholars that don’t have a home to go to for Thanksgiving, this will be their only Thanksgiving meal.

The Guardian Scholars Program began in 2007 after former SDSU President Stephen Weber started a conversation with high school principals about students who were foster children or wards of the state and their options for college after they graduated. Associate Vice President of Student Services Reggie Blaylock helped establish the program.

The program has continued with SDSU President Elliot Hirshman with “support from senior leadership that is unprecedented in the country,” Blaylock said. Hirshman’s wife, Jeri Hirshman, in attendance and was thanked publicly by Blaylock for the support she and her husband have given and continue to give to the program.

“You can’t understand this program by looking at brochures or a website, you have to be here and listen to these stories to really understand what this is all about,” Blaylock said.

Acting Vice President for Student Affairs Eric Rivera spoke about how SDSU is making the Guardian Scholars Program work.

“We create clear pathways for success, and we’re doing it with thoughtful planning,” Rivera said.

Guardian Scholars Program have a retention rate following their freshman year of 92 percent, compared to an 80 percent retention rate for freshmen nationally, Rivera said.

During the event several students shared how the Guardian Scholars Program has impacted them and changed their lives.

“College would not have been possible without Guardian Scholars,” communication junior Jasmine Jenkins said.

Jenkins’ parents were drug addicts; she met her mother once and doesn’t know her father. Jenkins said that foster children and wards of the state do not get a lot of support, but Guardian Scholars helped her.

“Anyone who is a junior or senior in high school that is in a situation like I was in should look up Guardian Scholars,” Jenkins said. “They genuinely care and they will genuinely help you.”

“Guardian Scholars bridged the gap for me and kept me from being homeless,” social work junior Veronica Castillo said.

Castillo, mother of a 3-year-old, was emotional as she shared her story of having to spend the night in her car with her son because she didn’t have anywhere else to go.

“Having someone to guide me and help me has been great,” Castillo said.

Criminal justice junior Kaye Mazon had similar things to say about what the program has done for her.

“I’m thankful for this program so I don’t have to do this alone anymore,” Mazon said.

Guardian Scholars Program Specialist Dominic Barragan, gave sobering statistics during the presentation. About 25 percent of foster children are jailed within two years of being emancipated from the state and 51 percent are unemployed within two to four years after emancipation, Barragan said. Currently, less than 1 percent of the population of California is made up of foster children, but 40 percent of people in homeless shelters are former foster children.

“We’re hoping to reach out to anywhere there are youth so we can tell them about our program,” Barragan said.

The statistics didn’t dampen the mood, though, as the students enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving turkey meal with dressing and pumpkin pie for dessert.  With laughing and sounds of forks sparking off of plates, no one could say it didn’t feel like a big family Thanksgiving meal.

SDSU Guardian Scholars Program Director Josephine Mojica was mentioned by several students as being instrumental in helping them come to SDSU. Mojica’s, known to the students as “Momma Mojica.”

“I don’t have kids of my own but I have 71 here.” Mojica said.

The students gave her a standing ovation after she made brief remarks thanking her fellow staff members for their work and the attendees for coming.

There are currently 71 Guardian Scholars attending SDSU.

Courtesy of JonathanBonpua

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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Guardian Scholars celebrate Thanksgiving with campus meal