Students Organize an Event for Youth in Foster Care


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EDUC 364 Students Instructed by Assistant Professor, M. Garrett Delavan, Ph.D.

On Thursday, October 26th, several California State University, San Marcos undergraduate students including Madison Ross, Stephanie Ulloa, Yesenia García, Madison Hall, Rosalba Bolwin, Morgan Brandt, Alexis Jackson, Lauren Steen, Lilly Gregory, Priscila Campos, Kailee Ennis, Ashley Kaplan, Soledad Mejia and Aundrea López,  all oversaw a Halloween-themed event at a group home for youth in the foster care system.  Emily Juliano Faulk took the initiative to contact all her fellow students currently tutoring at Casa de Amparo and begin the planning process.  Students in their sections of EDUC 364–The Role of Cultural Diversity in Schooling–are required to do service learning for 20 hours as tutors of foster children and youth.  

Michelle Bailow who runs the Tutor Connections partnership between CSUSM and San Diego County Office of Education, said, “These girls took the initiative to plan this and coordinate with the staff on site to make it happen; it was so impressive. The students and staff can’t stop talking about it.”  According to Emily, the student who initiated the planning, “I personally love Halloween! It’s the one time of year anyone can be someone else. It’s creative, comical and there is not much expected besides fun and the opportunity to remove ourselves from our day to day grind. These girls have been through some unimaginable things and don’t always welcome our presence there. I thought it would be an opportunity to be silly and bring everyone together on a level playing field, rather than see us as just another person, who will soon be gone. Memories last forever,  and my hope was it would provide just that, a fun memory, in what may be otherwise, dark times for these girls. Luckily everyone was on board and together we made it happen!”

Life at a group home is very stressful for the young women who live at Casa de Amparo because there are more peer pressure and less adult attention than in a foster family.  According to Michelle, “Tutoring at the group homes like Casa de Amparo is the most challenging assignment I hand out to students because these are the students that are hardest to place on individual families.”  The CSUSM students felt like organizing a Halloween celebration might offer the young girls at the group home a fun experience to play games, dance, and hang with their friends, tutors and on’site staff.  The students organized cookie decorating, pumpkin painting, a photo booth, and face painting just to name a few.  Staff worked with the students and Michelle as well to coordinate music, lights and pizza bringing the whole experience together.

Several CSUSM tutors had a lot to say about how the Halloween event.  Rosalba said, “Organizing for the Halloween party for the young girls at Casa De Amparo was fun and all of us were optimistic that the girls would have such a good time. There were stations of games/activities and a DJ playing. Some of the girls were dancing/singing, and/or engaging in the activities and that was the goal for this Halloween themed event. We wanted them to have a good time and be able to enjoy a night with friends/staff and have a memorable night that we hoped they would remember. I am grateful that I was part of this event, and it has been a rewarding experience with the Education 364 class and the tutor connection program.”  Yesenia said, “Tutoring at Casa De Amparo was definitely a challenge at first. Getting the girls to open up and like you seemed like hard work. However, once I got through to my student, I got a chance to see how smart and kind she really is. So when the other tutors invited me to participate in throwing a Halloween party, I was thrilled. That was the least we could have done for these girls. I am glad to hear that the students enjoyed themselves and are appreciative of our efforts.”  Madison said, “When I was first approached to contribute, I was on board immediately and so were all of the other tutors and that commitment is what makes this program thrive.  The opportunity to relax and have a party doesn’t come up often for these girls, so being able to provide that for them was amazing and such a fulfilling experience.”  

Dr. Garrett Delavan, a new assistant professor in the School of Education who is the instructor of one section of 364 working with Tutor Connections, commented, “Children in the foster care system have often experienced multiple forms of trauma, and this service learning opportunity, while intimidating at first, has proven to be exciting and rewarding for my students this semester.  They have come to see that for many kiddos they will teach, what educators provide are reliable attachment relationships of high expectations with the caring support that will be just as important–if not more important–than the course content in preparing students for successful, fulfilling lives.  It’s hard to find a better place to make a difference than in the teaching profession.”