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As overwhelming as college can be, students in foster care with no family support can find an exclusive community at PCC where their different challenges share a common thread.. Scholars Transitioning and Realizing Success (STARS) and Careregivers of Foster Youth (CAFYES) are two foster youth programs that aim to serve as a safe haven for previous and current foster youth students, helping them reach their dreams, goals, and potential.

Joel Romero/Courier
STARS Counselor Theresa Reed introduced another STARS Counselor Gerardo Ortiz to the students in attendance at the STARS Dine and Discover in room R104 on April 11th, 2017.

STARS and CAFYES both branch under Extended Opportunity Programs and Services EOP&S who aim to be the unique support system that these students need. While STARS is more open to anybody who is or ever was in the foster care system, CAFYES is specifically for individuals who had an open case after they were 16, cannot be over the age of 26, meet EOP&S requirements and is enrolled in at least 9 units.

Counselors from both programs work with students, be it for academics or even for conversation. Sometimes, pupils will walk into the offices just to chat about whatever is on their minds. The connections created between the mentors and students show manifests within their office. STARS student Cynthia Chavez helps out at the front desk and cubicles as she explains the close-knit camaraderie.

“There’s definitely good relationships and bonds here,” she said. “Whatever support students lack with parents they can get it here, and that’s important because without that support, they may not be motivated to even attend college.”

Joel Romero/Courier
Youth Moving On Program Manager Aurelio Mitjans sits down to talk to students at the STARS Dine and Discover in room R104 on April 11th, 2017.

In addition to in-office counseling, the programs also offer housing assistance, book and meal vouchers, along with one exclusive event called “Dine and Discover, “ which are weekly lunch meetings that aim to build community. During these lunches, the program either discuss any hot topics of the week, or invite guest speakers and former students to come and talk with current members. Alumni visits give members insight from people who were once in their position, then reached their academic goals after transferring or graduating from PCC.

Several campus services such as the Transfer Center and Psychological Services make appearances as well, which remind students what other resources are available for them on campus.

Ultimately, programs’ mentors work hard to build trust with their students, considering their own past histories with the system. These relationships are key to building this unique community at PCC.

“As a former foster youth, having someone on campus that has a sense of your past journey is huge,” STARS advisor Theresa Reed said. “Some success factors we know are having family and financial support and having an educational base. Our foster youth don’t have that, so coming to college with those deficits, it’s nice to have a program that recognizes this and gives them the support to reach equity.”

Joel Romero/Courier
Students eat and ask questions at the STARS Dine and Discover in room R104 on April 11th, 2017.

Along with being in foster care, the students in both programs also deal with hardships such as homelessness or food insecurity. For STARS and CAFYES counselor Juanda Scoggins, it’s important that these individuals get the support they need and build close relationships with their mentors.

“We’re trying to address the barriers and needs that they have so that they can move beyond this moment in their life and do something great,“ Scoggins said. “As a counselor it’s really fulfilling to see them go through this transitory period and to know that something I said or did helped them is great.”

With caring and genuine bonds that nurture students to reach their goals, STARS and CAFYES makes sure that despite anyone’s difficult past, they can turn to people on campus no matter what.

For more information and eligibility requirements, visit their office in L-107 or give them a call at (626)-585-7439.

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