Lead Story West Edition

USC college fair reaches out to foster youth

LOS ANGELES — Getting into a university can be a daunting task for many students. For foster youth, that challenge can be a bit steeper.

Helping make that process easier is the United Friends of the Children working in partnership with USC’s Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

The two entities came together to put on the 18th annual College Within Reach Fair Oct. 28 that catered to foster care youths throughout Los Angeles County.

More than 40 colleges and universities put on their best recruiting faces for more than 600 foster care youths who brought their inquisitive minds and questions to the daylong event on the USC campus.

Among the schools present were Cal State Los Angeles, UC Santa Barbara, Azusa Pacific University, USC, Cal State Long Beach and Fullerton College.

Many of the schools, if not all, seem to have programs on campus that assists those in foster care. Joshua Mauldin, a retention specialist at Cal State Los Angeles, said he knows what’s it like to be a youth in foster care. He once walked in those shoes himself.

Joshua Mauldin, a retention specialist for Cal State Los Angeles, tries to make inroads with youths attending the 18th annual College Within Reach fair Oct. 28 at USC. The college fair was geared to helping foster care youths learn about opportunities to get into college. Mauldin himself spent time as a foster care youth.
(Photo by Dennis J. Freeman)

Mauldin, who entered the foster care system when he was 10, said the stigma of being a foster care youth can put a mark on you as a person.

“I’m a former foster youth myself,” Mauldin said. “I was emancipated at 15, never thought that college was going to be a pathway I was going to go into. I really stuck with my mentor, which was my basketball coach.

“He was able to really spend long days and long nights with me to get me that information to figure out what I wanted or how I wanted to view my future. That’s when I made my decision to go college. There’s a lot of different stigmas going into education, higher education. This event is very important because it gives you the insight of what opportunity truly is.”

USC student Carmen Noyola wants to give back to the foster care community. Noyola attended the college fair as a representative of several programs on the USC campus.

Also a former foster care youth, Noyola said it is important for her to do her part to make sure others can benefit from her experience.

“I want to make sure that I give back to the community, which is the foster care community, and that they are aware of the resources that I was not aware of,” Noyola said.

“Foster youth are entitled to the full benefits of the laws that protect their educational journey but they also deserve the access and commitment from all of us as community members who support their journey,” said Kara Allen Soldati, president and CEO of United Friends of the Children. “For the past 18 years, United Friends of the Children has organized a collaborative event that brings together community partners, corporations, colleges and universities and inspirational leaders to ensure Los Angeles County foster youth have the knowledge, support and tools to get into college and obtain a degree.”