Former foster youth step into the workplace to shadow mentors

Finding a job in today's economy can be a worry for many graduating seniors, but it is a particular concern for students who came to SF State from the foster care system. 

Students Kayla Daniels and Vaneka Reed in front of a sign for the San Francisco Unified School District's School Health Programs Department.

Kayla Daniels (right) and Vaneka Reed (left) visited the San Francisco Unified School District's School Health Programs Department as part of a Guardian Scholars careers event on Feb. 10.

"Without a home base to fall back on it can be really scary," said graduating senior Kayla Daniels, who grew up in and out of foster care since the age of seven. "You can't ask your parents for job advice or a place to stay, so as graduation approaches you think 'Okay, I have to figure this out on my own.'"

Daniels is part of SF State's Guardian Scholars Program, which helps former foster youth earn college diplomas. Until now the program has focused on what students need to get through college. A newly added emphasis on career planning is expected to prepare students for life after graduation.

Daniels was one of 45 students who took part in the Guardian Scholars Program's first "job shadow day" on Feb. 10 when students shadowed professionals at such workplaces as Goldman Sachs, the Court of Appeal and YouTube.

A psychology major with a minor in sexuality studies, Daniels wants to pursue a career in sex education.

"My placement ended up being a perfect fit," she said after spending the day at the San Francisco Unified School District, visiting professionals at the School Health Programs Department. "I felt so happy because I met so many people and they gave me guidance about what I should study at graduate school to get a job in this field."

Employees hosted a range of activities including company tours, small work assignments, resume assistance and the chance for students to ask professionals about their career paths.

"Former foster students don't always have the networks and workplace connections that students from traditional backgrounds have, so we are giving them a little extra help to build those connections for the future," said Miriam Markowitz, who joined the Guardian Scholars staff team last fall as a career planning manager. She organized the recent careers event and is working with employers to develop a summer internship program for Guardian Scholars students.

"Our students are hugely successful if they make it as the three percent of former foster youth who graduate from college," Markowitz said. "We know they're going to graduate and can go on to successful futures -- whether it’s work or further study -- but we want to make sure they have the support they need to get there."

For more information about the Guardian Scholars Program, visit

Read previous stories about SF State Guardian Scholars at:

-- Elaine Bible