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Promise Scholars Program helps foster youth achieve a college education
Promise Scholars 1
Former foster youth Terrance Ellis hopes to pursue a running career now that he has graduated from CSU Stanislaus. Here, he is pictured winning first place at the CCAA Track and Field Championships. - photo by Photo Contributed

For many high school students, senior year is a whirlwind of college applications and acceptance letters. However, for many former foster youth who have been emancipated from the State of California’s foster care system, the idea of going to college is regarded as less attainable and oftentimes impossible.

Statistically, less than 10 percent of foster youth actually make it to college, and less than 3 percent are expected to graduate. Despite these bleak numbers, approximately 70 percent of foster youth still admit that they want to go to college, they just do not know how.

This is where California State University, Stanislaus’ Promise Scholars Program comes in. Since 2006, the program has been helping ensure the bright futures of college bound students who have aged out of foster care. The Promise Scholars Program does everything in its power to help foster youth graduate from college, including providing scholarship assistance and psychological counseling.

“When you think about the students that are admitted, and the fact that only 3 percent of them are expected to graduate, we’ve made a tremendous difference,” Promise Scholars Program Coordinator Wanda Bonnell said. “Any time you take a former foster youth and put a degree in their hand, you have changed their lives forever.”

A strong advocate of education, Bonnell knows that former foster youth are probably the most disadvantaged when it comes to attaining a higher education. A driving force behind the program, she helps provide holistic comprehensive support to Promise Scholars to make sure that all their needs are met in order to succeed academically.

“When a student emancipates, they literally have no job, no income, no guardian, and no place to live,” said Bonnell. “We provide scholars full support so they can be successful academically, whether that be providing food, books, or covering housing expenses.”

Terrance Ellis was in and out the foster care system before enrolling in the Promise Scholars Program at CSU Stanislaus. He did not have a place to call home and often times found himself thrown from city to state, sometimes state to state. Before given the opportunity to go to college, Ellis was on the fast track to becoming just another former foster youth statistic.

“It wasn’t in my plan, I didn’t really have a plan,” said Ellis. “It wasn’t until the door opened — when I saw the opportunity that my life can be better and I didn’t have to end up like many of the people I saw living on the streets — that I decided I did not want to end up that way.”

As a result of the Promise Scholars Program, Ellis graduated with an art degree with a concentration in graphic design and videography. Just this summer, Ellis attended a summer arts course in Monterey, where he networked with many other artists in his field of study. His dreams now include pursuing his running career or becoming an art director, although he does not know whether he wants to work for a corporate company or create his own design business.

Arguably the most important, Promise Scholars helped Ellis find what he lacked for so many years: a home.

“Being in Turlock is the longest I’ve ever stayed in one place,” concluded Ellis. “Promise Scholars and Stanislaus helped to create what I consider my first real home.”

For more information on the Promise Scholars Program at CSU Stanislaus, visit or call 667-3957.