By Jessica Wang
May marks National Foster Care Month, and Cal Poly Pomona’s Renaissance Scholars, an academic program that seeks to empower foster youths within the campus community, is spreading awareness through campus events.
According to the National Foster Care Coalition, nearly 70,000 children and youths spend some time in foster care over the course of a year, making the foster population larger than all but 18 U.S. cities.
The campaign seeks to raise awareness on foster care issues and support the positive development of children within the system, as well as the youths who have aged out of the system.
The Division of Student Affairs’ Renaissance Scholars at Student Support and Equity Programs dedicates its time to the empowerment of former foster care youths.
Makeda Bostic, coordinator of Renaissance Scholars at Student Support and Equity Programs, is proud of the program of 59 alumni, which is expected to climb to an overall total of 65 following spring Commencement.
“Our students are still Cal Poly Pomona students trying to achieve their goals and get their degrees, but there’s that other layer of their identity, which is their foster identity,” said Bostic. “Just as you would highlight other identities, this is a part of our students’ identities [and] something that they carry with them through their journey.”
Launched in 2002, Renaissance Scholars has since expanded from 10 students to a cohort of 50. The program seeks to assist former foster youths with redefining their lives through enhanced higher education with mentoring, workshops, financial assistance, year-round housing and more.
“It’s interesting because sometimes when I talk to people, they say, ‘oh you’re working with foster youth? That must be a challenging population,'” said Bostic. “It’s challenging in that our students have a lot of needs, but it’s not challenging in the fact that [they] aren’t trying to be successful or intelligent.”
“Our students are amazing, intelligent [and] mindful students. It’s just that they’ve been put in a situation outside of their control, so I think that’s the biggest myth,” added Bostic. “That our foster youth are in a place where they created [their] situation, but in reality, they didn’t. They are a product of the situation, [and] that doesn’t mean that they can’t change.”
Members of Renaissance Scholars painted the CPP letters blue, the official color of foster care awareness, on May 7. Informational placards bound with blue ribbons have also been tied to various trees across campus, each containing different facts and call to actions to raise awareness of foster care.
The weeklong celebration also featured tabling during U-Hour in front of the Bronco Bookstore, equipped with a “Jeopardy!” -themed game containing trivia surrounding CPP buildings, Renaissance Scholars Support Services, Foster Care Awareness Month, random trivia and more.
Members finished the week off with a beach cleanup trip in Long Beach on Saturday.
Ray Causey, a first-year construction engineering technology student and Renaissance Scholars member, shared insights on what inspired the “Jeopardy!” -themed tabling.
“We thought that it would be a fun and exciting way to attract people to the table and tell them about our program,” said Causey. “Many were attracted by the signs on the board, the candy and the ribbons.”
“Many people don’t know what foster care is or how it works, so it is [our] duty to advocate and [spread awareness on] the great opportunities of being a foster care student,” added Causey.
Causey reflected on the impact that Renaissance Scholars has had on his life.
“I love the support we get from the program. Renaissance Scholars really helps guide you to greater heights. They provide financial [and] academic support, [and] we participate in many fundraisers, outreach events and community service events on and off campus,” said Causey.
“[Our] program has grown so tremendously, and I am so grateful to be a part of [Renaissance Scholars],” added Causey. “Without the help and support, I don’t know where I’d be right now. I am truly blessed.”
Pedro Orellana, a second-year finance student, enjoyed a round of the game while on his way into the bookstore.
“A few [trivia questions] were regarding campus, another was regarding which language was spoken in Brazil and the other one was, ‘what is the most popular breakfast cereal in America?’, which I did not know,” said Orellana.
The answer is Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes for those wondering.
“I didn’t know [Foster Care Awareness Month] existed, [but] the information that [Renaissance Scholars is] giving us sheds some light on it,” added Orellana.
Monica Lopez / The Poly Post
National Foster Care Month
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