Graduate Participates in Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Day
Xandra Vaughn, a foster-youth student and a recent graduate of Moreno Valley College, was selected to participate in the state’s Foster Youth Shadow Day. Vaughn, and 39 other nationally selected foster youth, spent a day shadowing Representative Karen Bass (CA-37) and other representatives.
Representative Bass founded the Foster Youth Shadow Day a decade ago.
“Having young people on the hill raises the attention and is one of the few issues that Democrats and Republicans come together on,” Bass said in a KTTV-LA interview alongside Vaughn.
Vaughn, who entered foster care at the age of six, said, “The experience I had with Representative Karen Bass is something that I will never forget. Karen Bass is an honest, strong, humble woman. She took time out of her busy schedule, sat down and listened to my concerns,” Vaughn said. “She actually cares, and she wants change, too.”
Vaughn has been active in trying to have the age restriction removed for foster youth. Currently, foster youth need to be under the age of 26 to receive specialized assistance.
“I want to know how to get it removed throughout California so other former foster youth like me coming into community college (regardless of age) can receive the services needed to be successful,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn also wants to see additional basic need services as well as monies for mental health, education and homelessness services throughout the foster youth community.
“I explained how there needs to be more opportunities for former foster youth and the need for an age extension on the Chafee Grant as well.”
In order to be selected for Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Day, foster youth from across the nation wrote letters expressing their desire and why they should be selected. After being selected, each are matched up with a representative.
“I was told (about the opportunity) by another former foster youth mentor, formerly enrolled at Riverside City College,” she said. “I was interviewed and accepted.”
She knew this was her opportunity to have her voice heard.
“This program ensures that current and former foster youth have a seat at the table alongside legislators, policymakers, decisionmakers, and advocates,” Vaughn said. “Representative Bass knows how important it is for former foster youth to have educational services. I will continue
to advocate for current and former foster youth. Representative Bass has given me the encouragement that I needed to keep advocating.”
Nationwide just three percent of foster youth successfully earn a four year degree. In fact, only about half of the youth raised in foster care complete their high school studies.
Vaughn, 30, graduated from Moreno Valley College in June and will transfer to California State University, San Bernardino. There she plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in Social Work with a minor in Policy.
While at Moreno Valley College, Vaughn was introduced to the Next-Up/Guardian Scholars program which is committed to supporting current and former foster youth exiting from the foster care system. The program’s goal is to serve as a resource for young scholars by assisting in their development and equipping them with the educational and interpersonal skills necessary to become self-supporting, community leaders, role models, and competent professionals in their selected fields. She was also extended an opportunity to work within the program.
“If it wasn't for this program, I wouldn't have my associate degrees or my certification,” Vaughn said. “I feel like I can help other students like me who have lived the experience of being a former foster youth.”
Vaughn maintains a Facebook page for foster youth resources, assisting individuals with finding and accessing housing support, education funds, and mental health services. She hopes to one day turn it into a non-profit.