To help current and former Sonoma County foster youth achieve their academic potential and build better futures, The Valley of the Moon Children’s Foundation will award its annual college and trade school scholarships on Mon., July 29, at a lunch at the Wild Oak Saddle Club, Santa Rosa. The private, all-volunteer non-profit raised more than $150,000 this year to support the educational dreams of 48 youth and young adults who once faced abuse, neglect or abandonment at home.
“We have seen former foster youth graduate from trade schools, junior college, four-year universities and beyond,” says the Foundation’s President of the Board of Directors Laura Colgate. “It shows that if you invest in a young person’s future, the value returned is priceless.” Over 13 years, the Foundation has awarded 260 scholarships of $1500 to $10,000 totaling $894,500.
“The generous community donations to the scholarship program allow foster youth to achieve in their educational goals and become happier and healthier adults,” says Family Youth and Children’s Services Division Director Nick Honey, who leads the County of Sonoma foster care and child protection programs.
One former foster youth will use her 2019 grant to launch her Ph.D. work at Arizona State University in Justice Studies. Miriam Araya was brought into foster care at age 13 after experiencing physical and other abuse. She spent time with her four sisters and brothers at the county’s emergency shelter for foster youth, the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home.
At 29, Araya hopes to become a college professor one day, a dream built with VMCF’s financial help that also supported her through her undergraduate and master’s degrees in Criminal Justice. In her thank you letter to the Foundation, the Santa Rosa High School graduate said, “Receiving financial assistance from Valley of The Moon Children’s foundation not only removes much of the financial stress from my life, but also the emotional and physical. They offer me a sense of belonging in a world that tells me that I don’t belong. In a world that tells me I have greater odds of being incarcerated than I do receiving a graduate degree. In a world where so many foster youths go hungry and homeless, I am blessed to say that I have been afforded the privilege of having the support from the Valley of The Moon Children’s Foundation.”
The volunteer members of the Foundation’s Board of Directors are President Laura Colgate; Vice President Kevin Destruel, owner of Mead Clark Lumber; Secretary Patricia Bradley and Treasurer David P. Dillwood, CPA, Dillwood, Burkel & Millar LLP. They guide the Foundation’s efforts to prevent child abuse in Sonoma County and to support the healing and educational programs at Valley of the Moon Children’s Home, help emancipated foster youth through education, housing and employment guidance and improve the lives of current foster children and community foster parents.
One of the foundation’s vital early projects in partnership with the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and the Sonoma County Human Services Department was to raise more than $11 million to build the region’s only 24-hour emergency shelter for foster children, the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home (VMCH). Children moved into the housing portion of the Kenwood facility in 2005.
Community members can find out how to make a tax-deductible donation to support Sonoma County foster children by visiting vomcf.org or to volunteer at VMCH by calling (707) 565-6350.