Fresno State receives $1 million gift for Renaissance Scholars Program

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- An unexpected donation will help Fresno State students who've experienced foster care or homelessness.

The Renaissance Scholars Program provides emotional, social and financial support for these students. Staff says their resources are often stretched thin.

Now, a $1 million gift is changing the game.

Senior Carissa Contreras says the staff in the Renaissance Scholars Program have become family during her time at Fresno State.

"A lot of our students are non-traditional," said Contreras. "I'm older than the regular college-age student but I feel like they give me a sense of belonging, purpose and make me feel like Fresno State is a home."

The Renaissance Scholars Program helps with admission assistance, counseling and mentoring- currently serving roughly 100 Fresno State students.

"We have Friendsgiving coming up, we have holiday celebrations," explained Academic Counselor Adriana Vasquez. "We really just want to let them know they have a family here on campus."

Renaissance Scholars often face more challenges than the average student and many are unable to accept unpaid internships.

"Foster youth don't really have many options to not work and get paid," explained Contreras, "because we don't have support coming from other aspects of our lives."

"Our students really lack in that area," added Vasquez. "Many times, they're balancing a lot more than the common student. It's either do I work or do I find an internship that may not be paid?"

A $1 million dollar gift from George and Melodie Rogers is removing that barrier, paying students for their time interning.

"This makes the difference that I can go directly into the field with some experience and be paid for it," said Contreras.

The communications major says she plans to do an internship next summer, before embarking on her own career path.

"I want to help at-risk youth and reach former foster youth," said Contreras. "They have a lot of potential and they're worth it, so that's what I want to do."

Each student will receive a $2400 stipend for their hours interning. They'll also have ongoing meetings with a mentor to discuss the experience and outcomes.
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