Guardian Scholars Program

About This Program

Target Population: Emancipated foster youth from the State of California motivated to obtain a college education from ages 17 to 23

For children/adolescents ages: 17 – 23

Program Overview

The Guardian Scholars Program at Cal State Fullerton aims to increase the percentage of college graduates from youth who were raised in the foster care system in Orange County, California, which is typically less than 3 percent. The Guardian Scholars Program was specifically designed to shape emancipated foster youth into capable, responsible citizens who contribute to society rather than become dependent on the social service system.

Program Goals

The goals of the Guardian Scholars Program are:

  • Short-term:
    • Sustaining academic progress towards educational goals
    • Obtaining college course credit for all units attempted each semester
  • Long-term:
    • Obtaining and graduating with bachelor’s degree

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Guardian Scholars Program.

Essential Components

The essential components of the Guardian Scholars Program include:

  • Financial Support, Academic Support, and Social/Emotional Support
  • Once admitted to Cal State Fullerton and accepted in the Guardian Scholars Program, scholarships for tuition, fees, textbooks, and supplies awarded
  • Additional support services provided:
    • Year-round on-campus housing:
      • Participants (Guardian Scholars) given priority for safe and affordable housing in the residence halls
    • Financial Assistance:
      • Guardian Scholars receive additional financial support not covered by state and federal aid through private funding
      • Dedicated financial aid officer provides additional support to those who have unique needs
    • New Student Orientation:
      • Both incoming freshmen and transfer Guardian Scholars provided academic advisement and campus orientation during New Student Orientation prior to the start of the academic year
    • Summer Bridge:
      • Provide essential retention services and academic advisement services for freshmen Guardian Scholars
    • Student Drop-In Center:
      • A confidential and safe place for Guardian Scholars to study and network with other students in the program
      • Several computer terminals and a lounge area available for student use
    • Counseling and Support:
      • A tremendous amount of time and resources devoted to providing a safe and nurturing environment for students to share their personal concerns and issues which includes:
        • On-going, regular counseling with the program director for new students
        • Bi-weekly educational advisement focused on problem solving and encouragement
    • Priority Registration:
      • Guardian Scholars can register early for classes which ensures Guardian Scholars adhere to their educational plan and graduate within five years
    • Early Alert:
      • Mid-semester grade reports collected by Guardian Scholars staff from instructors to help students track their academic progress
    • Life Skills Workshops:
      • Topics include Money Management, Business Etiquette, Stress Management, and Safety
      • Workshops facilitated by experts in the field
    • Community Enrichment Activities:
      • Consistently provide student opportunities to interact with one another in a stress free and fun environment:
        • Movie Night
        • Bowling Night
        • Beach Party
    • Employment:
      • On campus student employment encouraged for Guardian Scholars
      • Scholars can work up to 20 hours of work-study weekly
      • As an added benefit, they learn time-management in a supportive, but carefully supervised environment
    • Career Mapping Program:
      • Career planning aimed to prepare Guardian Scholars to transition from college student to career professional
      • In coordination with the Student Leadership Institute and the Career Center, provide workshops and resume and interview training specifically designed for Guardian Scholars students
    • Health Services:
      • Basic health and counseling provided at no cost at the campus Student Health and Counseling Center, with minimal cost for augmented services (e.g., special laboratory tests, pharmacy prescriptions, etc.)
      • Additional medical and dental support provided by collaborative partnerships created in the community
    • Disabled Students Support:
      • Provide assessment and support for Guardian Scholars with learning differences
    • Childcare:
      • For those students who are a single parent, childcare available at the University Children’s Center
    • Study Abroad:
      • Opportunities available for students who are in good academic standing to gain educational and personal enrichment through International Programs (IP) which is the system wide study abroad program of the CSU that is affiliated with over 50 universities in 19 countries where students can pursue coursework for CSU resident credit
    • Digital Stories:
      • This training provides students with opportunities for personal growth and healing
      • Through the Bay Area Academy, Center for Digital Stories, students undergo an intensive four-day workshop and learn to utilize multimedia applications such as photos, video, music and poetry in order to produce a personal story

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Guardian Scholars Program directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Emancipated foster youth with no parental or other adult support

Recommended Intensity:

Guardian Scholars visit the drop-in center at a minimum once a week. However the majority of students visit the center daily. Contacts with Guardian Scholars estimated at three times a week

Recommended Duration:

The program is provided for up to 5 years.

Delivery Setting

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)


This program does not include a homework component.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

Dedicated staff members, drop-in center, scholarship funding

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

At least one staff member working in a university setting. Qualifications necessary include personal dedication to assist this unique population of students. Graduate degree in education, counseling, or social work helpful. The other qualification necessary is Scholarship Funding. All Guardian Scholars are considered “fully funded” under federal guidelines and the office of financial aid.

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Training Information

There is not training available for this program.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

The following studies were not included in rating Guardian Scholars Program on the Scientific Rating Scale...

Lenz-Rashid, S. (2018). An urban university campus support program for students from foster care: Services and outcomes. Children and Youth Services Review, 94, 180–185.

The purpose of the study was to examine the effectiveness of the Guardian Scholars Program (GSP) for undergraduate students with a history of foster care at San Francisco State University (SF State). Participants were assigned to the GSP intervention group. Measures utilized include academic, retention, and graduation data from the SF State online student database. Results indicate that the GSP program saw an 84% sophomore year retention rate, an 82% overall retention rate, and a 70% six-year graduation rate. These outcomes are better than the outcomes for the SF State general population of students, SF State Pell Grant recipients, and nationwide public university students. Limitations include lack of randomization, lack of a control group, limited generalizability due to the high LGBTQ population in the sample, and lack of knowledge in regard to academic needs such as IEP’s or specific history/type of foster care that may influence the participant’s outcomes. Note: This article was not used in the rating process due to the lack of a control group.

Additional References

No reference materials are currently available for Guardian Scholars Program.

Contact Information

Agency/Affiliation: California State University, Fullerton, Guardian Scholars Program
Phone: (657) 278-5493

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: January 2024

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: April 2012

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: April 2012