The Renaissance Scholars Program at California State University, Fresno recognized two students who completed the program’s first year at a ceremony Wednesday.

Designed to assist former foster youth obtain a college degree, the Renaissance Scholars Program was launched in September with its first 30 students and two students, Kamille Marshall of Visalia, and Charles Williams of Fresno will be graduating with the Class of 2009.

Marshall will earn a B.S. degree in Health Science – option in Community Health and Charles Williams will earn a B.A. degree in history at the May 23 university Commencement.

The program was funded by a three-year $300,000 grant from the Walter S. Johnson Foundation and $180,000 from the California Wellness Foundation.

Directed by the Division of Student Affairs, the program provides students a strong network of support and services, such as admission assistance, individual and group counseling, academic monitoring, mentoring and enrollment guidance. Renaissance scholars also receive stipends and access to an emergency fund.

Program coordinator Kizzy Lopez said the new program assists former foster youth, who do not have the traditional parental support most take for granted, make the difficult transition to adulthood. Foster youth who “age-out” of the system, usually at age 18, “are expected to be self-sufficient without the financial means to care for even their basic needs,” Lopez said.

An estimated 20,000 foster youth “age-out” of care every year in this country. While 70 percent of foster youth report they would like to go to college, fewer than 10 percent actually enroll, and only one to 2 percent graduate with a four-year degree.

University support like the Renaissance Scholars Program and Educational Opportunity Program make the dream of college a reality for former foster youth, Lopez said.

For more information, contact Lopez, at 559.278.5055.

Related link: Renaissance Scholars Program