Enriched Scholars Program gives new guidance to foster youth

The Enriched Scholars Program opened its doors to provide assistance to students who are in foster care or who have a foster care background.

The program began in 2008. It was dropped due to insufficient funding in 2011, but has returned this fall.

The two staff members directing the Cosumnes River College program are Aujonique Dismukes, a former student of the program, and Asaelia Valdez, director of the program.

The program is for students, ages 17 to 25, and provides services to the students who are enrolled in the program, including priority registration for classes, textbooks, career counseling and workshops.

The main goal of the program is to encourage the students to pursue attending college and achieve success through the duration of their educational journey, whether that is earning an associate’s degree, or transferring to another college to further their education.

Andrew Maestas is a 24-year-old student majoring in communications and is enrolled in the ESP.

“It’s a great help. You make personal relationships, get development advice, and you get the feeling you’re being looked out for,” Maestas said. “ I love ESP. I love CRC.”

Dismukes said the program had the intention of not becoming too well-known, due to the perceived stigma surrounding being a foster youth.

“They don’t want to be very recognizable,” said Extended Opportunity Program Services Coordinator Kathy F. Degn, who works behind the scenes of EOPS, which includes the ESP. “They dislike anything that makes them different.”  

Foster youth often face challenges that disrupt day-to-day life. A number of foster youth can become homeless, have outside duties such as caring for children, or drop out of college altogether, Degn said.

Students within foster care are more sensitive and very hesitant to identify themselves, Degn said.

Dismukes was a student of the program several years ago. After completing her education with a degree in justice studies from San Jose State University, she has returned to encourage and help other students be successful.

“If I had not received the support both financially and emotionally, I would not have been as successful here,” Dismukes said, about her time at CRC.

But her story is only one story amongst many others within the foster care system who were or are enrolled in the program.

“Every child has a different story, no one child has the same story,” Dismukes said. “Being a part of the ESP is amazing and no one should feel ashamed or stigmatized for being part of the ESP, especially when joining can assist in your success.”

The program serves 45 to 50 students. Applications can be found on the main college website under EOPS Student Services.