After repeated abuse from her biological father, Stephani Galvez, a fourth-year sociology and legal studies double-major, found herself in the foster care system from when she was 15 to 18 years old.
“There are a lot of challenges that [foster youth] face,” Galvez said. “It’s usually financial and lack of support. When you don’t have the finances to be in an institution like [Long Beach State], you really have to work either part-time or full-time and still do full-time school.”
Galvez is now the public relations officer for Fostering Futures, a club that focuses on helping foster youth in the community. She sees the club as a support system that takes away her worry about her identity as a former foster youth.
“I feel like if I talk about certain issues that I’m going through, whether financial [or] emotional, I can come here and talk about it,” Galvez said. “I’m gonna find people who maybe…[have] similar experiences or they’re going through the same thing.”
Fostering Futures’ president, Stephen Penalber a fourth-year nutrition major, got involved after being part of a foster youth club at his community college.
“Our mission is to build a community…of former and current foster youth, as well as allies, [through] social events, fundraising, and community service,” Penalber said.
Less than 3% of foster youth graduate from a four-year college, compared to 24% of the general population, an issue that Penalber wants the club to address.
Fostering Futures has been a campus club for a few years and was originally known as the Association for the Advancement of Foster Youth.
“We realized that the name wasn’t in our vision; it didn’t represent us,” Penalber said. “[We changed it] also for confidentiality reasons, because some foster youths out there sometimes don’t want to be associated [as] foster youth.”
As the club grows, club treasurer and third-year business major, Miguel Sanchez said members are seeking to expand fundraising techniques.
“We’re trying to see if we can get our food handling certificate, so that way we can bake stuff and it will be cheaper for us to get products,” Sanchez said. “And it will be more profit for [Fostering Futures].”
Galvez said that it is important for foster youth to talk about their stories because it can help impact someone else who is going through a similar situation.
“You can be a role model, you can be an inspiration,” Galvez said.