A goal of the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025 is to lift up underserved students such as foster youth, who often need extra resources to be successful in higher education. Programs at every CSU campus provide former foster youth with educational support, peer support, counseling, housing assistance, financial aid and even food. 

Foster youth in America are presented with many challenges early in life that statistically inhibit academic achievement. By the time they reach adulthood, most do not feel prepared for college and lack a proper support system and financial resources.  

We’re doing some pivotal work here at the CSU, and I feel lucky to be part of that process.


While 93 percent of foster youth say they want to attend college, only 20 percent of them actually enroll in a four-year university, and of that group, less than three percent will continue to graduation.

Cal State Northridge graduate Demontea Thompson knows all too well the challenges former foster youth face in navigating higher education. Not only was Demontea a first generation-college student, he’d been in foster care practically since birth.

“My parents struggled with drugs and alcohol, so my twin brother and I were placed with our great aunt and uncle when we were just babies,” he says. “They really emphasized education so that we took notice in our school achievements and fell in love with it.”

After realizing college was an option for them in their senior year of high school, Demontea and his brother Demonte chose to attend Cal State Northridge because of the resources the Equal Opportunity Program (EOP) and Resilient Scholars programs offered.

“We had liaisons in every part of campus,” he says. “Being Resilient Scholars meant we had special access and a network of support. The generosity of administrators on campus inspired me to change my major from business to student affairs so that I could help others like me.”

The Resilient Scholars program also connected Demontea with a group of peers who provided emotional support and encouraged a sense of belonging on campus. In fact, when Demontea's great uncle passed away shortly before his commencement, his peer group was there to pick up the pieces.

“Having that connection made a world of difference,” he says. “The support from my peer group and from the administrators helped me to bounce back.”

His Resilient Scholar family encouraged Demontea to apply to graduate school at the University of Southern California (USC) and he was accepted into their master’s program for postsecondary administration and student affairs. 

While at USC, Demontea used his personal experience as a former foster youth to help USC strengthen their Trojan Guardian Scholars program as well as present research on black male foster youth in higher education.

“My goal is to change the narrative of foster youth,” he says. “I acknowledge that there aren’t a lot of people in higher education that look like me, so when I see others who look like me, I want to lift them up.”

Following his graduation in 2017, Demontea became a resident director of housing at Cal State Los Angeles where he works closely with transfer students and former foster youth to support and connect them with resources. He and his brother also continue to advocate for former foster youth.

“I think the CSU does a great job with understanding and meeting the needs of foster youth,” says Thompson. “We’re doing some pivotal work here, and I feel lucky to work at Cal State L.A. because I, too, can be part of that process.”

To learn more about how the CSU helps former foster youth achieve academic success, visit: https://www2.calstate.edu/attend/student-services/foster-youth.