Guardian Scholars program promotes healing for senior graduates
At the age of 4, Juan Garcia became a member of the foster care system. At the age of 7, he never saw his biological parents again.
Garcia has found a home with adoptive parents and their two children. He spent his childhood with his foster family and said it was lucky that his brother and two sisters also grew up in the same household.
“My adoptive parents didn’t treat us differently; we were part of the family,” he said.
Her adoptive parents instilled in her the importance of academic achievement and higher education to improve her life. In high school, he was an outstanding varsity runner and cross-country runner, and worked hard to get good grades to go to college.
“Because you’re a foster kid doesn’t mean you’re worthless. I didn’t let my past get in the way of what I had in store for me. Instead, I focused on my goals,” Garcia said.
This month, Garcia is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in public health from Cal State Fullerton — made possible with the support of her host family, the nonprofit OC United and the university’s Guardian Scholars program.
“Being part of the Guardian Scholars program has helped me reflect on my life and my academic journey,” Garcia said. “Knowing at 7 that I would never see my parents again was one of the hardest things to accept as a child.
“Guardian Scholars has helped heal my scars by creating a community where young adoptees can come together and relate to one another. More importantly, the program has empowered me by helping me access higher education.
Garcia is among 26 graduate Guardian Scholars who were recognized for their achievements at a reception on May 5. Launched in 1998, the program, funded by donor and community support, offers a range of services and resources to current and former adoptive youth leaving the foster care system.
“Getting a college degree is a step towards achieving other goals that I have in mind, including being financially stable, buying a house, and landing a career that I love,” he said.
Garcia, who focused his studies on nutrition, is the first in his family to graduate from college. He hopes to be an inspiration to his five siblings – three biological siblings and two adoptive siblings he grew up with in his foster family in Fontana.
Her career goal is to become a registered dietitian and later earn a master’s degree.
“I chose this career path because physical health is so important and easily overlooked. As a nation we are currently in an obesity epidemic and I want to help people who are struggling with obesity. obesity and food problems,” he relayed.
For Garcia, the jump from high school to college was taxing because once accepted to CSUF, he didn’t know how he would pay for college or where he would live. He heard about the Guardian Scholars program, asked for help and got involved.
Program staff guided him and helped him find off-campus housing in Fullerton through partner organization OC United, which helps transitioning young adoptees.
Two months into his first semester, he got the call that he had been awarded a full Guardian Scholars scholarship. At the start of his second semester, he received an older model Honda Accord from a donor through OC United. Instead of cycling to campus, he now had a car to drive.
During her college years, Garcia worked full-time in retail, and volunteered and interned with community organizations that provide services to foster low-income youth and families in County 1. ‘Orange.
“My participation in these organizations has enhanced my university experience because I have been able to help others in need. I was once a person who needed help, and now it’s my turn to give back.
He is a recipient of the Guardian Scholars Rookie of the Year award, the Guardian Scholars Community Service Award for his volunteer work and has maintained a 3.0 GPA.
As Garcia prepares to graduate on May 24, he credits the Guardian Scholars with changing the trajectory of his life.
“This program has been the greatest blessing of my life. Being connected to the scholarship program early on helped me achieve my college dream. It’s an accomplishment I can cherish – and no one can take that away from me.
Visit the Guardian Scholars website for more information about the program. Cal State Fullerton’s grand opening celebrations will take place May 23-26.