By Lauren Guerrero
Cal Poly Pomona’s Renaissance Scholars is having its annual toy drive in partnership with the McKinley Children’s Center Foster Agency.
The RS program aims to instill in its students the need to give back to the community. The RS students are all former foster youth. The toy drive gives them the opportunity to connect and give to children they can relate to.
“They work with students who are very much [like] our population, just our students are older,” said RS Coordinator Makeda Bostic. “Part of our program has different values where we really stand behind, part of [which is] giving back to the community.”
RS collaborates with McKinley every year because it is local and it allows the children and students to keep that bond.
“[The children] are usually in such as state of transition and having dealt with so much trauma,” said Bostic. “We want to try to bring a little bit of light to them during the holiday and our students. We totally understand that situation, and we relate as a program, so we want to share what we have with them.”
The McKinley Children’s Center has over 500 children. The boys and girls vary from infants to 17-year-olds. Many of these children have never celebrated a holiday before, nor do they know what it is like to receive a gift from someone who cares.
Some of the most popular items that the McKinley children put on their Christmas wish lists are: musical instruments, iPods, gift cards, video games, DVD movies, Lego sets, board games and model cars.
RS Educational Counselor Christina Jacobo gave some tips about giving to the toy drive. Jacobo discussed the need to keep in mind the older children when purchasing gifts: they are often over looked when people purchase items for the toy drive.
“Definitely keep in mind the older youth,” said Jacobo. “I feel like that’s very important because, most of the time, it’s easier to buy gifts for the little ones. I feel like making sure that you’re taking into consideration those 15-17 year olds ” because you’re reaching a wider audience.”
According to Bostic, the toy drive has grown in popularity over the years.
“We had a student last year in our program who recruited her classmates to give, and the teacher actually heard about it, [then offered] everyone extra credit ” if [he or she] gave something [to the toy drive],” said Bostic. “She was able to recruit her whole class with the help of her professor, so we actually had [around] four big trash bags worth of items on top of what was already being recruited through the campus.
As an undergraduate, Jacobo found a lot of value in giving back to the community and getting other students and peers involved as well.
“I think both [benefit from it], our students and the kids that will be receiving [gifts] especially because I worked with different foster youth programs,” said Jacobo. “Especially during the holidays, when you are opening gifts that other people put thought into it. I think it’s always a really neat idea.”
The RS program encourages students to give back to the foster youth community. Its purpose is to empower former foster youth through higher education.
“It’s a comprehensive support program that’s there to empower foster youth to be successful in whatever endeavors they choose to [follow],” said Jacobo.
The program was established January 2002, and it consists of 50 students, including eight scholars admitted for fall 2015. RS is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of its students. The program offers a wide range of support services for its students, including financial assistance, housing, health care, tutoring and academic advising.
This program ties in with CPP’s Educational Opportunity Program and the Casey Family Programs. The RS program’s ultimate goal is to empower its students to become educated and engaged citizens, who go on to lead productive and meaningful lives.
RS is accepting new, unwrapped gifts for kids 0-17 years old. The collection dates are Nov. 2 – Dec. 18. There are various drop box locations across the CPP campus for students and faculty to spread the holiday cheer.
For more information about the toy drive visit www.mckinleycc.org, or to learn more about Cal Poly Pomona’s Renaissance Scholars program, visit www.cpp.edu/~ssep/.
Courtesy of Renaissance Scholars
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