Guardian Scholars: From foster children to SF State graduates

by Denize S. Springer

Barbara-Bell2, Guardian Scholars: From foster children to SF State graduates, Culture Currents It’s graduation time and San Francisco State University graduated more than 8,000 students at its commencement exercises on May 21. Among our impressive graduates are three African American students with something in common and unique perspectives on success.

Barbara Bell, Andre Helms and Kesia Williams faced hardship growing up in foster homes, but they have flourished at SF State with the help of a program called Guardian Scholars. The program offers scholarships, housing and the kind of support they and 63 other students had never known in foster homes. They live together, learn together and spend holidays together.

Andre-Helms4, Guardian Scholars: From foster children to SF State graduates, Culture Currents Andre and Barbara are Oakland natives. Kesia is a San Diego native who resides in Daly City. Having no friends or family members who attended college, each welcomed the counseling and coaching they received as Guardian Scholars.

Andre will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in corporate finance. The first in his family to go to college, he started out thinking that working for an average grade was good enough. But Andre’s counselors and the founder of the Guardian Scholars Program encouraged him to live up to his potential. Andre has since earned top grades. An internship at McKesson Corp. has also encouraged him to go as far as he can go. He wants to pursue a master’s degree in business administration.

Kesia-Williams4, Guardian Scholars: From foster children to SF State graduates, Culture Currents Barbara became pregnant in her junior year and was grieving over the death of her grandmother and another relative. She thought seriously about dropping out, but the counselors and other Guardian Scholars offered help and support. Today, the criminal justice major is a role model to her 18-month-old daughter. After interning at the Alameda County Probation Department, Barbara hopes to take a full time permanent position with the agency and pursue a graduate degree in social work.

Kesia grew up in 13 foster homes and couldn’t wait until she turned 18, when she would finally be making decisions for herself. She graduated with an associate’s degree from a junior college but wasn’t looking into a bachelor’s degree until she heard about the Guardian Scholars program at SF State. Williams, who coached girl’s athletic teams throughout college, will graduate with a degree in kinesiology. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work so she can turn her negative experiences in group foster homes into a positive one for others. Her dream is to manage group homes that offer more support.

For more information about the SF State Guardian Scholars Program and other equal opportunity programs at SF State, visit