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Guardian Scholars kicks off Foster Care Awareness Month at Long Beach State

The Guardian Scholars program kicked off Foster Care Awareness Month at Long Beach State with the Impact of Campus Support for Foster Youth panel on May 1, to promote visibility and inclusion for foster care students on campus.

Organized by sociology professor Vanessa Dixon, the panel aimed to raise awareness about events and services offered by Guardian Scholars, fostering a welcoming environment to encourage participation from youth in foster care.

Women standing on stage with her right arm raised at her side.
Professor Vanessa Dixon was a major part of organizing the Kickoff and she is responsible for organizing the event. Photo credit: Student Affairs Communications

In her opening remarks, Associate Director of Guardian Scholars Candi Marsh outlined a key message, resonating with the event’s theme and the Guardian Scholars program by highlighting the burdens carried by students from foster care backgrounds.

“It’s not just, here today and gone tomorrow. They wear their trauma like a backpack every single day to their classes and when they go home,” Marsh said.

Dixon said her experience in law enforcement and child abuse prevention education led her to work with foster youth students and Guardian Scholars.

“A lot of my passion comes from my experience in law enforcement, and I honestly wish I knew then what I know now and realized the struggles that a lot of our foster care youth face,” Dixon said.

Following Dixon’s opening remarks, a brief video was played to introduce the three panelists and the circumstances that led each of them to foster care, with factors including physical abuse and substance use by parents.

The video was interspersed with statistics illustrating the challenges faced by foster care youth, including high rates of child abuse within foster homes and the current figure of 60,000 children in foster care across the United States.

Panelists Darrell White, Chrisie Morris and Dijon Higgins appeared on stage and began to answer questions ranging from what led them to present their stories to who they wanted to be when they grew up.

Man sitting at a table with his hands crossed under his chin.
Darrell White spoke on representing hope and victory for other foster during the panel. White stressed the importance of role models in the lives of foster youth. Photo credit: Student Affairs Communications

White said he wants to get his PhD and pursue teaching

“You always want to make sure that you end in victory no matter what,” White said. “That’s how I’m expanding my story.”

Despite appearing to succeed academically, Morris said many students continue to grapple with significant difficulties in their personal lives.

“In my experience, I think for a lot of foster youth we’re not walking through the four-year education plan the same way as people who might be a little more privileged,” Morris said. “We may not always have the same amount of time to study because suddenly we might have to go to work. We have to do a full-time job while pursuing a full-time degree.”

The panelists remarked on how much easier it became for them to be vulnerable with professors and other faculty when they could see themselves in those people and feel like there was a safe, positive environment for them.

“All you gotta do is just be open, be a nice person and you’ll see it when people start to unwind themselves and give you a better opportunity,” Higgins said.

After the Kickoff event ended, attendees were encouraged to go to the USU photo gallery on the first floor where an art gallery called “Photovoice: Amplifying Foster Youth Voices Through Art,” will be hosted until May 10.


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