Program gives support, strength to students with foster backgrounds
For Savannah Lundgren, one program at Ball State provided her with a chance to succeed at college.
The Guardians Scholar program, which gives scholarships to students who are current or former foster youth, took Lundgren in during her second semester at Ball State.
The program provides students with support primarily through scholarship support, but also through a variety of postsecondary support and referral services to help recipients earn their degree.
From the beginning, Lundgren said that the people involved in the program had nothing but good intentions.
“It’s been really great. Guardian Scholars the past three years for me has been such a motivator,” Lundgren said. “It’s good to have someone serve as checkpoints in your life to make sure that you’re not going down the wrong path. It’s just good to have somebody there for you.”
The program was created by the Social Science Research Center, which is sponsored by the Ball State Department of Social Work, and is currently housed there.
Ann Brown, director of the Social Science Research Center and a professor of social work, along with Olivia Fellows, the program coordinator, have been with Guardian Scholars for the past four academic years.
Only one to two scholarships are given through the program per year because the money is funded through donations, but both Fellows and Brown hope that donations will continue to build so they can help more students.
“We do a weekly meeting mostly focused on academics, so we do some academic coaching and monitoring for our students making sure that they’re successful in the classroom,” Fellows said.
This past academic year, the program had an 80% retention rate of freshmen within the program, an average grade point average of 3.372 for active freshmen and an 80% participation for all freshmen engagement activities. The program currently has 16 students of all grade levels enrolled for this academic year.
Brown says that the program reaches out to “school counselors, local offices of the department of child services, and residential child caring agencies” to make sure that they know the program exists at Ball State.
Both Brown and Fellows say they wish for the program to expand. For now though, they are focusing on the students they do have, such as Lundgren, who through the program, was able to focus on her major in biology with a concentration in zoology and wildlife biology and conservation.
In addition to her minor, the now senior also has a natural resources minor, an international resources management minor, an environmental management minor and a leadership studies minor. She says that Fellows was that “steady hand” who understood and supported her throughout college.
“You truly feel, not that you’re holding their hand but that you’re just walking alongside a student and their journey,” Fellows said. “You can truly see how these students stand out and how they become role models for any student who has experienced foster care as well. It’s such a rewarding position.”