April 5, 2004
New grant to aid innovative foster youth program
UCSC program supports college aspirations
of orphans, foster youth, and homeless youth
By Jennifer McNulty
An innovative UCSC program that supports the college aspirations of
orphans, foster youth, wards of the court, and homeless or runaway youth
has received $150,000, the first installment of a three-year $450,000
grant request, from the Stuart Foundation.
The Smith Society has reached out to nearly 100 young people.
Photo: Victor Schiffrin, UCSC Photo
The funding is an enormous boost for the Page
and Eloise Smith Scholastic Society, an alumni-driven, volunteer-based
program established in 1999 that provides financial, academic, and emotional
support to students before and during their years at UCSC.
In the five short years since it was established, the Smith Society
has reached out to nearly 100 young people who are on their own,
helping them navigate the bureaucracy of the university and become successful
students, said Francisco J. Hernandez, vice chancellor for Student
Affairs at UCSC. This collaboration with the Stuart Foundation
will allow us to build a model program that can be replicated at other
universities and colleges.
With the grant, the society will become an established university program
operating under the Student Affairs Divisions Services for Transer
& Re-Entry Students (STARS) office.
Bill Dickinson, shown above at left with Kenny Buckler, established
the Page and Eloise Smith Scholastic Society in honor of the founding
provost of Cowell College and his wife, below. Above
photo: Victor Schiffrin, UCSC Photo Services
The Page and Eloise Smith Scholastic Society (PESSS) was established
by Bill Dickinson, one of UCSC's first graduates and a veteran of the
foster care system, to honor the founding provost of Cowell College
and his wife.
Dickinsons goal was to make higher education a realistic option
for foster youth, most of whom grow up without anyone making their education
a top priority. His mission resonated with fellow UCSC alumni, faculty,
and staff, who banded together to nurture the educational aspirations
of youth who live largely on their own, particularly foster youth.
What drives me is the imaginative, loving, daring quality of
community I had as an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, said Dickinson.
Thats what taught me to discover my own greatness and dare
to go after my dreams. The Smith Society is, I think, a remarkable embodiment
of that original spirit.
Adult members of the society share a commitment to providing students,
called Collegiate Fellows, with access to excellence, said
Dickinson, noting that, for example, a UCSC film major spent a recent
academic quarter working on documentary filmmaker Michael Moores
newest production, Fahrenheit 911, thanks to the assistance of
faculty member Paul Ortiz, and an astrophysics major is enjoying the
mentorship of David Dorfan, a senior UCSC physicist who, said Dickinson,
embodies the best of the UCSC spirit.
More than financial support, we provide community, and we ask
Collegiate Fellows to help us reach out to younger kids and pull them
into the community, said Dickinson. I have always loved
Cowell Colleges motto--the pursuit of truth in the company
of friends. Thats what were about.
The Stuart Foundation grant will support the expansion of the societys
work through the hiring of a program coordinator and a part-time project
assistant. With the grant, PESSS will serve approximately 40 current
UCSC students, 40 community college or high school students who are
in the process of applying to UCSC, and will expand its outreach efforts
to an additional 200 to 300 precollege youth, largely in high school.
What foster kids dont have is anyone who says, Ill
believe in you. Ill encourage you to have a dream. Ill be
sure you understand the college admission process. Ill hang in
with you. Ill nag you. Ill remind you of deadlines,
explained Dickinson. And after you get into college, Ill
still be there for you.
Foster kids, for the most part, dont have anybody paying attention
to their education, so thats what were doing.
The San Francisco-based Stuart
Foundation helps the children and youth of California and Washington
states by strengthening public systems and community supports that contribute
to childrens development.
UCSC faculty, staff, and alumni who want to get involved with the Page
and Eloise Smith Scholastic Society are urged to contact Bill Dickinson
at (831) 588-5839 or email@example.com.
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