Foster Youth Overcomes Adversity Through SBVC's Student Support Program

Devonte Kilgore, 23

San Bernardino Valley College student Devonte Kilgore, 23, of Fontana, admits he had doubts along the way about what it takes to get through college. One thing he didn’t want to be was another statistic – unless he was actually studying statistics. If not for San Bernardino Valley College’s Guardian Scholars foster youth program and several dedicated counselors who guided him through the process, he doesn’t think he would have made it this far. “When I came to college, I gained insight into life and started to do better,” he said. Kilgore’s counselors made sure he had his textbooks, financial aid, and all of the support services he needed to succeed. One of his professors—Dr. Craig Luke—had a special impact, reassuring Kilgore that college was the right place for him, and that his presence on campus alone was an indicator of success.

Dr. Luke’s message to “keep mentally tough and push ahead” kept Kilgore looking to all the good things in life he has in store for him after graduation. “[Dr. Luke] said people don’t think you’re supposed to make it. You’re supposed to be the 50 percent that drops out of college. Don’t allow that to mess up your mind. There are people out there looking for people like you to fail.” Through the Guardian Scholars program, Kilgore accessed many forms of student assistance, including on and off campus resources to help meet his educational goals.

Foster youth students at San Bernardino Valley College receive priority registration, financial aid, textbooks, supplies, housing resources, and field trips. Both current and former foster youth are welcome to apply for services that assist them with completion of an associate’s degree, a certificate, or transfer to a university. “Without [the Guardian Scholars program], I don’t think any of the foster youth would have made it through college,” said Kilgore, whose major is sociology with a minor in criminal justice.

Devonte Kilgore poses in front of the V-ballKilgore, who graduated from South High School in Bakersfield, reflects on what it was like bouncing through several states and foster homes from a young age. Coming from an abusive household, Kilgore and his nine siblings were split up when he was just six years old. One of the hardest parts was the forced separation this created between Kilgore and his identical twin brother, Devon. By age 17, Kilgore was placed into a stable family in Rancho Cucamonga, and–three years ago–enrolled at Valley College. According to Kilgore, his college experience has greatly changed his perspective about the possibilities in his future.

In his spare time, Kilgore works as an after-school teacher, where he connects with younger students not only on an academic level, but by passing on the kind of advice and hope that first helped propel him towards higher education. In this position, he is able to counsel younger students who are dealing with some of the same emotional baggage that he remembers in his own life. “Life throws curve balls,” he said. When he meets other students with a foster background, Kilgore says the power to encourage them now comes to him naturally. “I say that I’m a foster youth, it’s not bad. I say that they’re not the only foster child—there are others who have shared that experience. That opens up their eyes—but I was that kid.”

For the students he works with, and all those that come his way, he wants to pass on the kind of advice that has motivated him to try harder. He credits San Bernardino Valley College counselors with having been his best support system. “Words can’t describe it. Without them, I honestly don’t think I would have made it this far in college. Their impact is tremendous, not just for me, but also for other foster youth at SBVC.” Kilgore is planning to graduate in Spring 2019 with an associate’s degree in administration of justice. After he graduates, Kilgore says he plans to transfer to Cal State San Bernardino, where he will pursue a bachelor’s degree in the same field. “My dream job is to pursue law enforcement, like my mom, grandfather and older siblings.”