Student sits on grassy hill

Support for Renaissance Scholars

  • BY Cal State East Bay
  • May 28, 2021

According to Foster Care to Success, fewer than 10 percent of foster youth earn a college degree. Meanwhile, the Human Rights Watch estimates that approximately 20 percent of foster youth transitioning from care in California will find themselves homeless.

To combat these challenges and to reduce the barriers of earning a college degree for recently emancipated foster youth, the Renaissance Scholars Program was established in 2006. Additionally, a scholarship specific to the program was created to help former foster youth pay for tuition and other out-of-pocket expenses in attending Cal State East Bay.

“We wanted to make sure that not only students’ needs for academic support were met, but also their social, emotional, financial and health needs,” said Dr. Jodi Servatius, faculty emerita and member of the Renaissance Scholars advisory board. “We realized that there were many kinds of help that typical students look to their parents to assist with, and that this was a group that didn’t have that as an option.”

Myra Drouillard (MA ’19 History) said, “I read about the students in the foster care system who come of age and do not have the security of family or resources that other students have. These students within the program are resilient, dedicated, determined, and deserve resources that will help them achieve their goals. This program is ideal for these scholars and I wanted to help our students within this program. As a Cal State East Bay employee and a Pioneer, I chose to give through payroll deduction, as it was the best way I could help in the long term, and it allowed me to make additional donations whenever something came up that the students needed assistance with.”

Another donor to the Renaissance Scholars Program, Karen Long, explained, “I am a retired high school counselor. I heard about the program from a friend and arranged a meeting. I was very impressed with the students, the quality of the Renaissance program, and how essential it was for foster students to have this additional support to succeed.”

Long’s experience with the Renaissance Scholars program and its students inspired her to create an endowed scholarship.

“I hope that the endowed scholarship will provide funds for the foster students in the program so they have more time to study and have to work less or borrow less,” she said. “I simply wanted to give back some support to a few richly deserving students who have overcome a variety of hardships to graduate from high school and attend a university.”

Support for Renaissance Scholars also comes from The Power to Soar Foundation, an organization focused on supporting youth in four-year colleges and universities.

“The Renaissance Scholars Program is well-run with a similar vision and passion to ours,” said  Vimal Srivastava, who created the foundation. “We see ourselves partnering with Cal State East Bay to support foster youth for many years to come.”

The dedication of these advisory board members, donors, and foundation members is having a profound effect on Renaissance Scholars. Despite the drastic changes our world has seen over the past year, former foster youth at Cal State East Bay remain resilient and determined. Seventy-eight percent of first-, second- and third-year Renaissance Scholars students from 2019 enrolled again in Fall 2020. They graduate at rates higher than those who do not participate in support programs. Since its inception, the Renaissance Scholars Program has served more than  140 students who have gone on to be successful entrepreneurs, educators, nurses, social workers, and lobbyists.

“I know from many years of being a professor and an administrator at Cal State East Bay that there are strict limits on what state funds can be used for,” explained Servatius. “We cannot use taxpayer dollars to buy new eyeglasses for a student, provide emergency cash for a car repair, or help with food assistance. However, these are exactly the kinds of needs that students have, and that parents often provide. My sense was that, if we could find donors and sponsors, we could really provide for their needs while, at the same time, we lift them up, let them know we believe in them, ease their burdens and encourage them in their studies.”

To learn more about the Renaissance Scholars Program, or to make a donation, please contact Val Schutz, Senior Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, at