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CSUSM Program For Foster Youth Gets $1M Gift

Photo caption: Students in the ACE Scholars Services program, 2012.

Photo credit: Cal State San Marcos

Students in the ACE Scholars Services program, 2012.

Cal State San Marcos announced Wednesday a $1 million gift for a program that helps former foster youth succeed in college.

The money, supplied by Jan and Esther Stearns, will establish an endowment, and pay for operating the ACE Scholars program.

"I have been especially impressed with CSUSM's commitment to serving first-generation and underrepresented college students," said Esther Stearns, who is a member of the university's foundation Board of Directors. "People come here for opportunity. I've talked to students whose lives have been changed through education — and that change has a ripple effect that impacts their entire family and our community."

The program provides assistance in admissions, financial aid, counseling and housing for students who are foster youth. School officials said few foster youth end up in college after they age out of the system because of a lack of support.

Nearly 90 percent of the former foster youth who attend CSUSM graduate, as compared to about half at other schools, according to the university. The program started with nine students in 2007 and has grown to nearly 60, giving CSUSM the largest number of foster youth per-capita of any college in the U.S.

The Jan and Esther Stearns Center for ACE Scholars is scheduled to be dedicated next year, according to the school.

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