Former foster teen gets master's degree from CSU Fullerton

One recent college graduate has an extra reason to celebrate and be celebrated this year. Junely Merwin is a success story who came out of foster care.

Not only did Merwin just receive her master's degree from Cal State Fullerton, through her advocacy, she has helped open up opportunities for others who've experienced foster care.

Merwin said "education saved my life." She was a 15-year-old mom when she entered foster care.

In addition to getting her master's degree, Merwin was the commencement speaker for her CSU Fulllerton class. Her son Christian, now 14 himself, was there to watch his mom take the stage.

As part of the college-based foster care support program Guardian Scholars, Merwin fought against Cal State schools over an age cap that stopped providing services to students at certain ages. Before Merwin, many schools ended services at 24 or 26 years old. Now, there is no cap in the CSU system.

Merwin said it's been a goal of hers "to see more age cap eliminations."

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Dr. Ana Aguayo-Bryant has been a champion on the issue. She's the CSU assistant director of student programs. She said that often young people who've experienced foster care get to university at an older age, and some in their mid-to-late 20s were beyond the age to access services. 

Aguayo-Bryant celebrates Merwin's work on behalf of older students.

"What's next? Merwin is already employed by a community college and is an activist with her community. She will continue working to connect students who were in foster care with services."

Cal State Fullerton had the first Guardian Scholars program in the CSU system, founded in 1998. There's now a foster youth program on all CSU campuses.

"Merwin is also active with other foster care programs, like A Sense of Home and The Collective. Among the organizations sending their support is First Star.