Most students do not know that they may have classmates or friends who have been in foster care.
The month of May is National Foster Care Awareness Month. It is the good time for students to increase their understanding about this unique population that is a part of the Pierce College student body.
The Guardian Scholars and Next Step hosted a screening of the movie “Instant Family” starring Mark Walberg and Rose Byrne on May 11 in the Multicultural Center.
The coordinator for the Next Step and the Guardian Scholars programs Lizette Carbajal presented the panel.
“It’s important to bring more awareness,” Carbajal said. “We have a large foster youth population on campus. And I would say many students that are in foster care, or have been in foster care, are not connected to our services.”
Carbajal said that it is necessary to have programs tailored for foster youth to be more visible on campus.
“We need to have more of a presence. Also within other departments, staff and faculty need to know there are resources for foster youth so they could refer students to us,” Carbajal said. “sometimes students don’t know about us or are maybe a little hesitant to reach out. They may not want to disclose that they are foster youth.”
The student panel consisted of four Pierce College students, all of whom were foster youth, and could speak about their foster care experiences with the students and faculty members that were present. The four student panelists were Juana Nolasco, Nati Jatana, Abigail Gochin, and Elias Ruiz.
Gochin, a sophomore undecided major, believed that having this conversation could make it possible for individuals still in the system to have better futures.
“It’s important for people to know people to know what Foster Care Awareness Month is, so we can make life better for foster youth,” Gochin said.
Ruiz, a sophomore biology major who is also pursuing a certificate in cyber security, viewed the occasion as momentous.
“This event is important because I think there’s a lack of awareness and knowledge around foster care in general,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz recalls his experiences and the response he gets from people who are not informed about life as a foster youth.
“So many times I’ve been asked questions about foster care,” said Ruiz, as he recalls his experiences and the response he got from people who were not informed about life as a foster youth. “A friend of mine literally asked me a couple of days ago on Facebook, ‘How’s the foster home like? Are you able to bring people over? Are you able to have a phone and have electronics?’ I thought to myself, of course I can have a phone, that’s a basic necessity that everybody has.”
Ruiz recognizes that many times people’s questions and reactions stem from lack of information and stated, “it just shows the genuine lack of knowledge around people in foster care”
He discussed why he thinks events about foster youth are necessary.
“I think with events like this it would definitely make people more aware,” Ruiz said. “Even if people go to their classes and they don’t meet anyone in foster care, it’s important for students to just know that foster youth are here and that they’re pursuing school just like you.”
Ruiz opened up about his involvement with the Transitional Housing Program (THP), a program that provides a house, utilities and a place to live for foster kids ages 18-24.
“I think for students it’s just having that mindfulness that there are other kids here who are also going through real life situations that most adults don’t hit until they’re in their late twenties,” Ruiz said. “For example, I’m twenty two years old right now, but I get the boot next year from my THP, and then I’ll be twenty three years old with no place to go.”
Architectural engineering and bio/design major Cheyanne Gibbs spoke about her relationship to the foster youth community.
“I grew up having a lot of friends in the foster care system,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs talked about the challenges her foster friends faced.
“A lot of them ended up homeless. Some ended up taking to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain of having to just sacrifice everything in their lives,” Gibbs said.
She feels strongly about taking action to help foster youth.
“I feel that if we were to come together and understand that housing is a part of foster youth, it’s not just about homelessness, but it’s about helping kids understand that there are people out there that care,” Gibbs said. “And if we want to talk about diversity and inclusion, then foster kids are very under represented in that regard.”
Gibbs also discussed what her goals were in trying to help.
“I want to try to incorporate making homes and safe places for youth,” Gibbs said. “It’s about the kids, they are our future. If they don’t have help, then we don’t have help.”
After the student panel concluded, the movie was screened. “Instant Family” puts a comedic spin on the realities of couples and families who want to adopt foster youth.
The movie was recommended to Pierce College students to watch so they can have better exposure about the issues related to the foster youth population that are often overlooked.
Pizza, nachos and popcorn were served to the student and faculty attendees before the student panel took place.