With only 3% of emancipated foster youth attending higher education, the Bruin Guardians Scholars seeks to make a change through academic opportunities, career workshops, financial assistance, and outreach activities. Because of their passion and dedication to reaching out to former and current foster students, the UCLA Volunteer Center is honored to award Bruin Guardian Scholars with the Bruin Heroes Award for Spring 2011.
Started in early 2008 with three founders, along with the Vice Chancellor and the Student Affairs department, Bruin Guardian Scholars was created to provide service and resources to high school students in current and former foster care. The organization, which began serving 10 foster students, now cares for 50. Bruin Guardian Scholars based their goals upon 3 components: academic, social, and outreach. In regards to their academic component, the Bruin Guardian Scholars hold bi-weekly workshops to provide access and educate students about utilizing on-campus resources, such as the career center, the UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services, and student legal services. Additionally, the Bruin Guardian Scholars offers two scholarships to these students, one based upon need and the other on merit.
Not only do the Bruin Guardian Scholars reach out to high school students, they also work with current UCLA bruins from a foster care background.
Montae Langston, a Political Science Major and graduating senior, has encountered that system and have found a network of support and sense of community with the Bruin Guardian Scholars. “Knowing that other people have been in similar shoes, I’ve been able to share my stories, learn from others, and grow together with them through my four years at UCLA. I hope to instill hope into current foster students to pursue their dreams through higher education and helping this specific population that is in need of good mentors,” says Langston.
At the beginning of each academic year, the Bruin Guardian Scholars host a welcome reception for new and continuing students to bring them together. Bruin Guardian Scholars collaborate with the Office of Residential Life to provide housing for these Bruins, and also offer job opportunities and student internships within the Bruin Resource Center.
The Bruin Heroes Award is not the first recognition of the Bruin Guardian Scholar’s work. Andrew Kaddis, a Biology major and graduating senior, recently accepted the Charles E. Young Humanitarian Award on behalf of Bruin Guardian Scholars. Also last May, the Bruin Guardians Scholars received the Donald Strauss Foundation grant to help them launch their very first academy, the Higher Education Summit, where they sent out five buses to different high schools in Long Beach and areas within the SPA 6 region of South LA. Here, the Bruin Guardian Scholars works with foster youth to encourage them to overcome their struggles and do more with their lives by applying for higher education.
In collaboration with First Star and the UCLA division of Student Affairs, the Bruin Guardian Scholars will pilot their Summer Academy program this coming June. For five weeks, the program will provide social and academic tools to foster youth transitioning from 8th to 9th grade. These students will be receiving assistance to become competitive applicants for subsequent admission into two and four year colleges through academic counseling and taking unit courses at UCLA.
Although the Bruin Guardian Scholars have already accomplished many of their goals this past year, they want to continue to build a better organization structure. With many graduating seniors, the scholars hope to have a retreat this coming summer in order to define and develop their leadership roles, as well as pass on their knowledge to future predecessors and continue to raise awareness of foster youth at UCLA.