University provides free housing to boost foster youth program

Former foster youth who are studying at SF State now have free access to housing on campus during the summer and winter break thanks to a new agreement between University Housing and the Guardian Scholars Program.

"Many of these students would not have a place to live over the break without this housing provision," said Xochitl Sanchez-Zarama, director and co-founder of the Guardian Scholars Program. "It's a basic necessity."

Photo of students in the Main Quad

Nationally, only 1-2 percent of foster youth who finish high school enter a four-year university. SF State's Guardian Scholars Program, which relies on private donations, helps former foster youth earn college degrees by providing them with counseling, scholarships, year-round housing and other essentials.

University Housing has designated ten furnished apartments in the Towers at Centennial Square for guardian scholars, providing up to 40 students with free accommodation and a complete meal plan during the University vacations. During spring and fall semester, students' housing is mostly subsidized by financial aid.

"Previously we had to put a lot of effort into fundraising so we could pay the University to house our students over the summer and winter break," said Sanchez-Zarama. "This in-kind support from University Housing means we can leverage our fundraising efforts to expand the other services we provide, for example by employing a career case manager to help students make a successful transition when they graduate."

This latest support follows a three-year period in which University Housing provided vacation housing for 16 former foster youth. During that time, Sanchez-Zarama says applications to the Guardian Scholars Program doubled.

"Students gravitate toward SF State because of the level of support we offer," she said. "To have room and board completely covered gives students a safe and secure entry into university life and lets them focus on their studies rather than on where they're going to sleep at night."

On July 7, 35 students -- most of them freshmen -- moved into the apartments in the Towers. In total, the Guardian Scholars Programs currently serves 65 students.

Read previous stories about SF State Guardian Scholars at:

-- Elaine Bible