The charitable foundation of Los Angeles philanthropists Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker has donated $3 million to UCLA to establish an endowment to support students who are or were in foster care.
The Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation Foster Youth Endowment will help foster youth focus on their studies by providing funding to cover the kinds of unexpected financial needs that, for other students, are often paid for by parents or family. The endowment, announced on the first day of classes, Sept. 26, will provide grants for tutoring, mental health services, summer housing and unforeseen school expenses.
The Pritzkers are longtime contributors to UCLA's Guardian Scholars program, which provides support to the 250 former and current foster-care youth who are students at UCLA. While many universities have programs offering financial-aid counseling and other supportive services for foster youth, the new Pritzker Foster Youth Endowment is among the first to offer grants for this population's many needs that may go uncovered by an initial financial aid assessment. If textbooks cost more than expected, or it's important to buy a suit for a job interview, or a year-end school project requires special supplies, the Pritzker Foster Youth Endowment aims to prevent these seemingly simple needs from becoming crises for UCLA Guardian Scholars.
"UCLA is committed to ensuring that all of its students can succeed, and the Pritzker Foster Youth Endowment will mean that our Guardian Scholars can focus on being students instead of worrying about unexpected costs," said UCLA Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Janina Montero. "The university is fortunate to have supporters like the Pritzkers who understand the needs of these students and are committed to enhancing their academic and campus experience."
The Pritzkers informally fostered two teenagers in addition to raising their own children, inspiring Jeanne Pritzker to form the nonprofit Foster Care Counts in 2012. Foster Care Counts builds on the Pritzkers' annual Foster Mother's Day event hosted at their home, where they treat hundreds of foster families to a celebration featuring carnival games, face-painting, spa treatments, a free clothing boutique and more. Jeanne Pritzker is also participating in a foster-parent training program.
"Every child deserves to have a caring adult in their lives, and while most kids in college have parents who fill that role, there are thousands who don't have that support," she said. "These students have already overcome so many challenges to get into UCLA. With this permanent endowment, we want to make sure that unexpected expenses don't derail their efforts to graduate."
Working with UCLA's Guardian Scholars program, the Pritzker Family Foundation provides welcome duffel bags to all new foster youth attending UCLA each year. For many foster youth, such as those aging out of group homes, there isn't anyone helping them move in or buying them basics like hangers, a pillow or even luggage. The massive duffel bag addresses all those needs and also contains sheets and a blanket, laundry supplies, toiletries, school supplies, a USB drive and other college essentials, said Paolo Velasco, interim director of the Bruin Resource Center, which houses the Guardian Scholars program. The Guardian Scholars program is funded through UCLA's Student Affairs office using student services fees, and by donors like the Pritzkers.
"Endowments provide long-term security and stability, so this will be a fantastic resource for our students now and in years to come," Velasco said. "With the Guardian Scholars program, our students know they can come to us for support and guidance navigating college life. We connect them with departments on campus that provide counseling or advice on applying for financial aid or insurance, but we can't meet all their needs that way."
A 2011 University of Chicago study found that while 30 percent of foster youth begin college, less than 5 percent earn two-year degrees and less than 3 percent obtain four-year degrees. But while nationwide the foster-youth graduation rate is lower than the average college graduation rate, UCLA Guardian Scholars graduate at rates similar to their UCLA peers with comparable socioeconomic backgrounds, Velasco said.
"The Pritzker Foster Youth Endowment will give our students the financial support to be successful in school," Velasco said. "It's great to have supporters like the Pritzkers who understand these students' needs and who help us relieve financial stresses so students can focus on their studies."
For more than a decade, the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation has been investing in strengthening many of the unique institutions that define Los Angeles. The foundation aims to enrich our community, not just for the present bur for generations to come, with a particular focus on medicine, higher education, the environment, the arts and foster care.
UCLA is California's largest university, with an enrollment of more than 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university's 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer 337 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Six alumni and six faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.