Program Offers Extended Family for Foster Youth

The Guardian Scholars Program was recently featured on NBC’s ‘Nightly News.’ The Program is close to my heart and is most definitely Good News.

“When foster children become young adults they often find themselves struggling to make it in the world. But now some colleges are providing the kind of support that can make a difference helping these young people become successful…”

Watch the NBC video coverage here:

The Guardian Scholar Program is a comprehensive program that supports former foster youth in their efforts to gain a university, community college or trade school education. The program leverages the expertise and resources of the private sector and public agencies to achieve significant synergies to support students effectively and cost-efficiently. Academic institutions, Orangewood Children’s Foundation, public agencies and private citizens create a powerful team dedicated to assisting deserving foster youth in achieving their dreams of an education, realizing true independence and reaching their full potential.

The need for these programs is great. Currently, only approximately 10% of foster youth go on to higher education, and of that group, only 2% ever graduate. However, 70% of foster youth have aspirations to attend college. Foster youth face challenges receiving the information, support, preparation and basic needs necessary to access higher education. Guardian Scholars programs are critical to bridging the gap between foster youth’s goals and dreams and the reality of their life situations.

Modeling after the successful Guardian Scholars Program started by Ron Davis in Orange County, California in 1997, students are equipped with the educational and interpersonal skills necessary to become self-supporting, competent adults. Success is dependant on a team effort that combines participating colleges, donors, mentors, and the determination of the student. Guardian Scholar students have already overcome significant psychological, emotional, displacement and financial challenges. The combined effort of colleges, donors, mentors, and of course the student creates success. The Guardian Scholars model maximizes state and federal financial aid, foundation financial support and many warm hearts providing an emotional safety net.

“The daily challenges and obstacles that young people, raised in the foster care system, must overcome have left a deep impact on my life. Their stories of abandonment, abuse, poverty, and displacement are horrific. To help these young people, I founded the Guardian Scholars Program in 1998 at Cal State Fullerton,” states Ron Davis. “The purpose of the program is to ‘Make Dreams Come True’ by giving deserving students a scholarship and personalized life support. It is very rewarding to see students grow from frightened and confused freshman, into professionals, social services leaders, teachers, parents, and contributing members of society. The goal of our program is to create a family of support along with the gift of a scholarship.” The Guardian Scholars program began in 1998 with three students. Today, the program has expanded to 20 colleges in California, Washington, Colorado, Indiana, and Massachusetts serving hundreds of students. “We are proud that we have reached our ten year anniversary graduating over 50 former foster youth!” Ron Davis said.

Following is a list of schools that have either an established “Guardian Scholars” type program, or plans to implement this type of program for former foster youth students:

Bay Area • Heald College, SF • SFSU • SJSU • UC Santa Cruz • San Francisco City College • Chabot College • Ohlone College • CSU East Bay

Orange County • CSU Fullerton • UC Irvine • Orange Coast College • Hope International University • Chapman University • American Career College • Concordia University • Taller San Jose • Fullerton College

Southern California • CSU Pomona • CSU LA • CSU San Bernandino • San Diego State • UC San Diego • CSU San Marcos

Other States • Ball University, Indiana

UC Santa Cruz has a similar program called the Page & Eloise Smith Scholastic Society:

Cal Poly in Pomona has Renaissance Scholars:

National Foster Care Youth Statistics:

  • There are more than 500,000 children and youth in foster care in the U.S.; approximately 20,000 youth “age out” or emancipate from foster care each year.
  • 100,000 foster youth live in California.
  • In California, 65% of youth leaving foster care do so without a place to live.
  • Up to 50% of former foster/probation youth become homeless within the first 18 months of emancipation.
  • Twenty seven percent (27%) of the homeless population spent time in foster care.
  • Youth in foster care are 44% less likely to graduate from high school and after emancipation, 40 – 50 percent never complete high school.
  • Girls in foster care are six times more likely to give birth before the age of 21 than the general population.
  • Sixty percent (60%) of women who emancipate from foster care become parents within 2.5-4 years after exiting care.
  • (Research shows that foster youth have a better chance of getting pregnant or going to prison, than getting a degree.)


Ways To Give:


Man Scuba Dives into Tsunami to Rescue Wife and Mother

No doubt many stories of heroism in the face of Japan’s recent tsunami will emerge in the upcoming weeks. Here is one of them:

Hideaki Akaiwa, 43, startled at work by the now infamous earthquake and tsunami that shook and overtook Japan on March 11th, rushed to high ground and immediately called his wife of two decades. When she didn’t answer, Akaiwa ignored friends’ pleas to wait for a military rescue, instead rummaging up some scuba gear and diving into the dark, cold, debris-filled tsunami. Hundreds of yards of swimming later, Akaiwa found his wife struggling against the 10-foot current that had overtaken the couple’s Ishinomaki home.

Once he’d gotten his wife to safety, Akaiwa suffered for four days with worry for his elderly mother. When she didn’t turn up at any of the official evacuation centers, Akaiwa dove once again into the filthy, neck-high waters and swam to her neighborhood, determined to track her down. After some searching, Akaiwa found her, scared and alone, on the second floor of neighbor’s house. “She was very much panicked because she was trapped with all this water around,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “I didn’t know where she was. It was such a relief to find her.”

With his family accounted for, Akaiwa hasn’t rested on his laurels. Rather, he’s spent the past two weeks heading into Ishinomaki in search of other trapped survivors. Armed with a backpack, a flashlight, a Swiss Army knife, and some water, he rides his bike around the wreckage determined to help others.


Boys Become Champions in Poor Island Village by Thinking Differently (Video)

The Thai Military Bank has launched a “Make the Difference” campaign, beginning with the release of an inspiring short film that urges people to think differently if they want to succeed. The film, based on a true story, tells the tale of an aspiring football team that lived on a tiny island in the south of Thailand– a floating village in the middle of the sea without an inch of soil for a practice field…

Music Celebs Raise Lots of Money in Fan Donations for Japan

In just 48 hours, Lady Gaga’s 8.8 million fans have raised a quarter of a million dollars for the Japanese relief effort. But Gaga isn’t the only one urging fans to donate. Like her “Japan Prayer Bracelets” that galvanized the donations, artists are getting creative for a cause. On Tuesday, Simon Cowell announced via Twitter that Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, and Katy Perry would be among those set to record a new song to benefit the Japanese victims. Other music celebs, such as Taylor Swift, Alanis Morissette and P-Diddy, joined Bieber, Spears and Perry on Twitter urging donations to the Red Cross and other efforts.

Music for Relief’s ‘Download to Donate‘, established during the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, is offering free downloads of new songs for a $10 (€7.10) donation, featuring recordings by Glitch Mob, Linkin Park, OK Go, and Caribou.

Find out more about how you can donate:

Music for Relief:

Music for Relief’s Download to Donate:

Citizen Effect:

Lady Gaga’s wristband:


Women of Courage Awardees Set Example for the World

Ten women have been honored by first lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for their exceptional courage in advocating for women’s rights and empowerment, often at great personal risk. Here is a brief description of just one of the ten women who have made huge strides and lasting impacts in their communities:

*Ghulam Sughra of Pakistan
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Marvi Rural Development Organization
Ghulam Sughra created the Marvi Rural Development Organization (MRDO), an NGO focused on creating community savings funds and raising awareness of education, health, human rights, and social development issues. While originally focused in her home village, Ms. Sughra has expanded to the rural areas of Sindh, Punjab, and Baluchistan provinces. Born in rural Sindh Province, Ms. Sughra was forced to marry at the age of 12. Six years later, Ms. Sughra became the first woman in her village to divorce, and consequently, became a social outcast. Severely beaten by her brothers when she tried to attend school, she pursued her studies at home. She later succeeded in becoming her village’s first female high school graduate and the first teacher at the first school for girls.
Age: 40
Languages Spoken: English, Urdu, Sindhi*

Since the inception of this award in 2007, the Department of State has honored 38 women from 27 countries. This is the only Department of State award that pays tribute to women activists worldwide. At an awards presentation at the State Department March 8, the first lady praised the Women of Courage winners for not standing silent in the face of violence, oppression, poverty or inequality.

“Time and again, these women have discovered a very simple truth: that courage can actually be contagious,” Obama said to an audience filled with diplomats, members of Congress and business people. The first lady used as an example Yoani Sanchez, a writer in Cuba whose blog “caught fire” on the Internet and was being downloaded onto computer flash drives and passed from person to person. When it was censored by the state, she distributed her blog through what she calls a “citizen network” – people outside of Cuba who helped publish her posts. Her writing is now translated into 15 languages.

This year’s Women of Courage awardees are:

• Roza Otunbayeva, president of the Kyrgyz Republic (Central Asia’s first female head of state and head of government in a traditional, majority Muslim country).

• Maria Bashir, prosecutor general for Herat province in Afghanistan (Secretly taught her sisters and local girls at home despite the risks of reprisal, and in 2006 was appointed Prosecutor General for Herat, the only woman to ever hold such a position in Afghan history).

• Nasta Palazhanka, deputy chairwoman for Malady Front (Young Front), a nongovernmental organization in Belarus (Advocates for civil society freedoms and promotes respect for fundamental human rights. Imprisoned repeatedly for her convictions yet prevails in her belief that a brighter future is possible).

• Henriette Ekwe Ebongo, journalist and publisher of Bebela, a weekly independent newspaper in Cameroon (Has spent a lifetime advancing press freedom, freedom of expression, human rights, good governance, and gender equality).

• Guo Jianmei, lawyer and director of the Beijing Zhongze Women’s Legal Counseling and Service Center in China (The country’s best-known female lawyer, a passionate activist, and pioneer of legal advocacy).

• Yoani Sanchez, innovator, writer and founder of the Generación Y blog in Cuba (Has been credited as the “founder” of the independent Cuban blogosphere).

• Agnes Osztolykan, member of parliament and the Politics Can Be Different Party in Hungary (Only female Roma Member of Parliament (MP) in Hungary).

• Eva Abu Halaweh, executive director of Mizan Law Group for Human Rights in Jordan.

• Marisela Morales Ibañez, deputy attorney general for special investigations against organized crime in Mexico (The first woman ever appointed to the position of Assistant Attorney General for Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime).

• Ghulam Sughra, founder and chief executive officer of the Marvi Rural Development Organization in Pakistan.

Clinton announced an initiative in partnership with Goldman Sachs Group Inc., a New York-based investment bank, to educate women in the business skills needed to be successful entrepreneurs. Lloyd Blankfein, chairman of Goldman Sachs, explained that the program will be an extension of Goldman Sachs’ “10,000 Women” program launched in 2008. That $100 million, five-year campaign has trained dozens of women from more than 20 countries.

The Women of Courage awards ceremony fell on March 8, the 100th anniversary of the first International Women’s Day. Clinton stated there are now more than 200 million women entrepreneurs worldwide and that women earn more than $10 trillion every year, most of which they invest in their families and communities. The United States is working to close the educational and income gap between women and men, the secretary said. Programs like the mWomen Initiative, which gives women access to mobile technology, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which helps women gain access to markets, and the Pathways to Prosperity Initiative, which helps women develop their business skills and economic opportunities, all fall into that effort.

“This is a central focus of my diplomatic outreach,” Clinton said. “Wherever I go around the world, I meet with governments, international organizations and civic groups to talk about economic policies that will help their countries grow by expanding women’s access to jobs and finance. “If we decide as societies, governments and businesses to invest in women and girls, we will strengthen our efforts to fight poverty, drive development and spread stability…When women thrive, families, communities and countries thrive,” she said, “and the world becomes more peaceful and prosperous.”

Follow here for “Biographies of the Secretary of State’s 2011 International Women of Courage Awardees”:


Dozens of People Perform CPR to Save One Heart Attack Victim

Heart attack survivor Howard Snitzer of Goodhue, Minn., center, reunites with the more than two dozen first responders who saved his life performing CPR for more than one and a half hours.

When Howard Snitzer clutched his chest and crumpled on a freezing sidewalk outside Don’s Foods in Goodhue, MN, (located in rural Goodhue, pop. about 900 and a town without a traffic light) he was wearing gym shorts, fresh from his daily workout. Across the street, at Roy and Al’s Auto Service, the Lodermeier brothers were getting ready to close.  Then, a local high school teacher ran up.  “He said a guy had fallen on the sidewalk,” Al Lodermeier says. At that moment, Don Shulte, owner of the grocery store, walked in. The three ran back to where Snitzer lay on the sidewalk. He wasn’t breathing. He had no pulse. If he didn’t get help soon, he would die.

For the next 96 minutes, more than an hour and a half, Al, his brother Roy, bystander Candace Koehn, who saw Snitzer fall, and more than two dozen other first responders took turns performing CPR on the fallen man. Their teamwork saved Snitzer’s life, in what may be one of the longest, successful out-of-hospital resuscitations ever. “It’s remarkable,” says Bruce Wilkoff, a Clevland Clinic heart rhythm specialist. “It’s a great example of people doing the right thing and having it work out.”

Along with the Lodermeier brothers, both veteran first responders with more than three decades of experience on the volunteer Goodhue Fire Department, Snitzer’s rescuers included police, volunteer fire fighters and rescue squads from the neighboring towns of Zumbrota and Red Wing. The Mayo Clinic’s emergency helicopter, Mayo One, flew in from Rochester, MN, almost 35 miles away. Their teamwork kept blood flowing to Snitzer’s brain, making each rescuer a surrogate for his failing heart.

Nationwide, only about 5% of people who suffer cardiac arrest on the street are resuscitated and leave the hospital. “…I don’t think the story’s about me,” says Snitzer, 54, who suffered his cardiac arrest on Jan. 5 and spent 10 days in the hospital. “It’s about the guys in Goodhue and Mayo One… My end of this bargain is to honor the guys who did this for me.”

“The number one thing in this case was that someone recognized very quickly that (Snitzer) had arrested and began good, hard, fast CPR,” says Mayo One paramedic Bruce Goodman. When they met in his hospital room, Goodman says, he was stunned to see a man he didn’t think would survive sitting up and talking with his brother. Snitzer asked Gooman, “Why didn’t you stop?” It’s a question, Goodman says, that he still doesn’t have a good answer for. His survival reflects a triumph over doubt as much as perseverance. The first responders who raced to Snitzer’s assistance knew when they arrived that the odds were stacked against them. “This is the first case I know of, of someone who walks and talks and is getting around like (Snitzer) is,” says Roy Lodermeier. Survivors sometimes suffer brain damage, White says, “a very compelling concern” in Snitzer’s case. “If you’d told me that night that this guy was going to get up and walk out of the hospital,” says Mayo One’s Goodman, “I would probably have said, ‘I’ll bet my house against yours he won’t.’ ”

“When I came to work five or six days later, I looked him up to see when he had died. I found out he had a room number,” Goodman said. Goodman and Svoboda went down to see him and told him for the first time what occurred. Snitzer says he’s still sore from the CPR and weak from the heart attack. But he’s extremely grateful to all the people who saved his life. “I’m a chef. I told them I’d be fattening them up every chance I get.”

On Tuesday, White flew to Goodhue to attend the monthly meeting of the Goodhue Fire Department and offer a seminar on the case. Snitzer and Ryan went too and Snitzer met White for the first time. “I was floored,” Snitzer says. “He hugged me for a long time. He wouldn’t let go.”

Heart attack survivor Howard Snitzer.


‘Laughing Baby’ Joins Other Baby Viral Video Stars

They are the A-list of the pre-preschool set, the babies who take the Internet by storm, racking up millions and millions of YouTube views by just doing what babies do best: being adorable.

The newest edition to that exclusive club is the “laughing baby,” Mica McArthur, who dissolves into giggles when his father rips up a piece of paper. Watch: