Fostering Friends

Xpress Mag Staff

Written by Melissa Landeros

In the summer of 2005 SF State established the Guardian Scholars Program (GSP), which would prove to be life-changing for a number of students.

The program, created to cater the needs of students who were or still are in the foster system trying to pursue an undergraduate degree, serves ten new students every fall and also accepts transfer students.

Erica Sheppard McMath, a transfer student and a part of the GSP, was first put into foster care at the age of sixteen following an altercation between her and her mother. After living in two group homes McMath turned eighteen and was on her own.

She moved from San Francisco to New Orleans in order to experience college in a new environment with a roof over her head. “Dillard University in New Orleans accepted me and they were giving me housing.  That was my primary purpose for leaving. I didn’t have an interest for education at all I just wanted a place to live,” says McMath.

Although housing was provided, McMath says that the school did not offer much support for the situation she was coming from.

It was not until McMath transferred to SF State that she began to take school seriously, “My attitude completely shifted. Before I had no interest in school, I was really angry with life in general, and I did not come from any type of educational background.”

Since the program’s establishment, the number of graduates has significantly increased. Director and cofounder of the GSP, Xochitl Sanchez-Zarama, says it’s very motivating for the younger students.  “There are definitely several resources for students that need them, and the program encourages the students to be self-supporting, role models, who have an equal opportunity to be successful professionals.”

The GSP offers numerous services to students including priority access to on-campus housing, priority registration dates, internship opportunities, and access to counseling and psychological services.

The programs continued success is largely due to its partnership with the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), the SF State School of Social Work, and off-campus social service groups.

Oscar Gardea, Director for the Educational Opportunity Program says, “EOP plays a very important role in assisting the GSP with their admissions process, and providing students with academic advising via an assigned advisor.”

There are weekly check-ins with the students from advisors, and constant updates regarding scholarships, and resources regarding holiday activities.  As McMath says the program is very supportive and involved with what is going on which each of its students.

The Guardian Scholars Program is truly an outlet for students to pursue a successful life post foster living. Many students who have been in foster care have not been given the proper foundation and support needed to succeed.

From being an inactive student McMath has vastly changed and says, “I pulled a 3.4 GPA last semester and for me that is like a 5.0.”

The GSP is striving to prove that progress and support go a long way.