San Francisco State University (SFSU) will now provide housing for the entire year to students who are former foster youth, becoming the first public university in the county to offer such benefits to youth in the foster care system.
SFSU decided during the summer to guarantee up to 40 spots in its Towers at Centennial Square apartments to be held exclusively for foster youth—at no extra cost to the university. Because most of the rooms are vacant during the summer, SFSU will now allow them to be given to students who need a place to stay during the break.
Many of the students who will benefit are participants of the Guardian Scholars program, which provides academic, social, financial and emotional support for former foster youth on campus.
“San Francisco State University is proud to support the students enrolled through the Guardian Scholars program,” said Jo Volkert, interim vice president of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management at SFSU, in an e-mail. “The former foster youth who are Guardian Scholars are an inspiration to everyone who must overcome adversity to pursue their dreams through a college education.”
Students say this will be helpful not only while they are in school, but during the academic breaks. Finding a place to stay during the holidays and summer time can often be a challenge to students who have transitioned from the foster care system to college.
“Our freshman year, when we were all moving out of the dorms for the summer, I saw a lot of the other freshmen have their parents help them move,” said Leilani Vo, a fourth-year student, for the press release. It was really emotional for me. Most people wouldn’t have understood, but my roommates Renee and Ja’misha also came from foster care, so they did.”
“Housing was a primary concern right from the beginning,” said Philippe Cumia, director of the SFSU student housing program. “Year-round student housing has been our priority for Guardian Scholars and it has been structured into their program as a requirement to achieve academic success.”
In 2009, California passed Assembly Bill 1393 which mandated that public universities grant foster youth priority access to housing. Members of the Guardian Scholars program at SFSU believe this offer by the university will make it easier for its students to be successful and matriculate.
“We are extremely proud that our campus community has shown such visionary support for our students,” said Xochitl Sanchez-Zarama, director and co-founder of SFSU’s Guardian Scholars program. “It frees us up to focus on fundraising for critical services like the career counseling and mental health resources that our students need to thrive.
Sanchez-Zarama says that since fundraising for students living on campus will now be out of the way, Guardian Scholars will continue to focus on students who live off campus and provide stipends to help them with their summer rent when financial aid isn’t available.