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CSU San Marcos receives $1M gift for former foster youth center

California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) will receive a $1 million donation from Jan and Esther Stearns for a center that provides support to former foster youth pursuing their college degree.

It now will be called the Jan and Ester Stearns Center for ACE Scholars. The Stearns' gift will provide current use funds for center operations and programs as well as establish the ACE Scholars Services Endowment, providing ongoing support into perpetuity.

The Stearns recognize that most foster youth want to go to college but have numerous barriers preventing them from successfully entering and graduating from an institution of higher learning.

According to recent surveys, there are 500,000 foster youth currently living in the United States and approximately 4,000 of these young people are in CSUSM’s service region. Even though 70 percent of foster youth desire a college experience, most age out of the system only to find themselves ill-prepared and unsupported for success: 65 percent become homeless, 20 percent are arrested or incarcerated, and less than 2 percent graduate from college.

Founded in 2007, ACE Scholars Services is the on-campus "home" to former foster youth, providing services that meet their unique needs and improve their rates of matriculation, graduation and career success. ACE offers counseling or assistance on anything from housing to academic counseling, financial aid or admissions.

CSUSM is the only university that guarantees admission to foster youth and maintains two Memorandums of Understanding with the counties of San Diego and Riverside.

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