Steps Magazine Winter 2014,
16:15 PM

Center for Former Foster Youth Recieves $ 1M

By Margaret Chantung

Jan and Esther Stearns announced plans during fall semester to donate $1 million support ACE Scholars Services, home to a one-of-a-kind program at CSUSM that provides support to former foster youth pursuing their college degrees. In recognition of this remarkable gift, the University will name the program's newly rennovated space the Jan and Esther Sterns Center for ACE Scholars.

The Stearns recognize that most foster youth want to go to college but have numerous barriers preventing them from successfully entering and graduating from an institution of higher learning. According to recent surveys, there are 500,000 foster youth currently living in the United States and approximately 4,000 of these young people are in CSUSM’s service region. Even though 70 percent of foster youth desire a college experience, most age out of the system only to find themselves ill-prepared and unsupported for success: 65 percent become homeless, 20 percent are arrested or incarcerated, and less than two percent graduate from college. Their gift will provide current use funds for Center operations and programs as well as establish the ACE Scholars Services Endowment, providing ongoing support into perpetuity.

"I have been especially impressed with CSUSM’s commitment to serving first-generation and underrepresented college students," said Esther Stearns, who is also a member of the University’s Foundation Board.

"People come here for opportunity. I’ve talked to students whose lives have been changed through education—and that change has a ripple effect that impacts their entire family and our community."

Founded in 2007, ACE Scholars Services—also known simply as ACE—is the on-campus "home" to former foster youth, providing services that meet their unique needs and improve their rates of matriculation, graduation and career success. Working from a place of trust and understanding, ACE offers guidance or assistance on anything from housing to academic counseling, financial aid and admissions. CSUSM is the only university that guarantees admission to foster youth and maintains two memorandums of understanding with the Counties of San Diego and Riverside. It is the largest program of its kind in the nation.

"The Stearns have generously supported ACE Scholars Services for many years, and this new gift continues and expands our ability to make a Cal State San Marcos education available to every talented, hard-working former foster youth in our region who desires it," said Jim Mickelson, founding director of ACE. "Their donation assures that the program will have a long and healthy future, impacting countless young people as they move beyond their past and earn their college degrees."