Public Affairs

Building Bridges to Educational Success for Former Foster Youth

Student Ambassadors gather together on the first day of the California Foster Youth Education Summit.
Student Ambassadors gather together on the first day of the California Foster Youth Education Summit.

February 22, 2011
By Erik Fallis

The California Foster Youth Education Summit in February brought 700 people  – many of them California State University students – to Sacramento in order to create a bridge for educational success.  The summit was the nation's largest gathering of nonprofits, government agencies, higher education institutions and students to focus on mapping a path through college for former foster youth.

CSU Long Beach alumnus and motivational speaker Demontray “Dee” Hankins shared his message of people reaching their goals despite being considered “at-risk” youth.  Hankins’ troubled 18 years in the foster care system dramatically changed for the better due to the support he received from a local child welfare agency called United Friends of the Children.  In particular, a woman named Monica ensured that Hankins successfully transitioned from foster care into college.  She checked in on him regularly and reinforced his high expectations.  Hankins credits Monica for pushing him to succeed.

Alumni and peer mentoring played a huge role in reinforcing the message of resilience and success at the summit.  Student Ambassadors representing the CSU, University of California and community colleges facilitated team building activities among the former foster youth.  For many it was the first time that they met and shared their experiences with other students who had also worked their way through the foster care system.

Service providers and educators also learned from each other and from the students in a series of breakout sessions and panel discussions.  Faculty and staff from CSU campuses including Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and Stanislaus ran workshops that looked at various aspects of how students are being supported and what more can be done.

At the summit, students were eager to prove their own resilience, with countless mentors and educators cheering their success.  It is easy to see the next generation of students to follow in Dee Hankins footsteps of foster care, to college degree, and finally a successful career.

To learn more about campus support programs for former foster youth, please visit