Fostering Futures recipients meet the future

Incoming freshman Lorenna Lentz meets fellow students during the GCU Fostering Futures Meet and Greet. (Photo by Ralph Freso).

Lorenna Lentz has lived in 12 homes in nine years. Some were foster care group homes, like the last one where she shared a room with five girls.

But in June she moved into her own place, her very own, at Grand Canyon University.

She has her own snacks, her own lamp and her own microwave that she picked up from the CityServe warehouse on campus.

“It means a lot of things,” Lentz said at a recent meet-and-greet for 11 recipients of the new Fostering Futures scholarships, which provide free tuition and a room of their own. “Mainly, it means stability.”

Fostering Futures Student Administrator Brandi Turner welcomes new students during the meet and greet. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

She said the word several times: Stability.

“I don’t have to move around. I can stay on campus and actually put down roots,” said Lentz, 19.

Lentz went into foster care nine years ago and was constantly uprooted.

“A lot of times, I couldn’t stay in the same school because I was in a different district or a whole different town,” she said. “A lot of just moving around, and it can be hard. It’s a struggle to get to know people, knowing that you are just going to be moving again.”

It was strange for her when people asked where she was from.

“You just have to say, ‘I’ve been all over.’”

Lentz got an early start by taking summer classes, but others who received the scholarship designed for students transitioning out of foster care will move in at the end of August. At the introductory pizza-and-cookies event, they also were served information and enthusiasm on what it will be like to be a college student at GCU.

They were shown videos of students cheering at Welcome Week and at basketball games and raising their arms in praise at Chapel. They were told that others would be there for them. They were told to go for it.

“GCU is a great community,” Charity Norman said, addressing the group. “But community is something that you have to look for, you have to go find it.”

The Director of Welcome Programs, home of Fostering Futures, works with Foster Care Student Administrator Brandi Turner and admissions counselor Brady Farup.

“When you talk about GCU, you really think about the heart of the city,” Turner told the group. “And I really think this is our heart right here, reaching out to students who may not have the opportunities.”

Turner, a veteran of Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) who also fostered and adopted children, said in an interview that she has a heart for helping students.

“These students who are at risk need the support that a scholarship provides,” she said.

It also includes tutoring, student work opportunities, life skills programs, a mentor and other services to help them get off on the right track.

"Everyone is part of our family."

Camden Marasco, GCU student body president

It can be tough for first-year students to adjust, and it’s a particular challenge for those who have aged out of foster care.

“It’s a transitional age for all young people,” said Barbara Guillen, a DCS permanency and youth services manager. “Eighteen does not make you an adult, but you are legally responsible to be an adult. You may not have the capacity to make the right decisions, and that’s true for all young people, and especially for young people who might not have the family support that others do.”

That’s why she is excited about the supportive components of Fostering Futures: “In my opinion, it’s the best part of the scholarships, all the onsite services that GCU will provide.”

The group had breakout groups to get to know one another, an icebreaker that filled the room with nervous laughter and talk that intermingled to create the picture of young lives:

I love food ... I’m a quiet person who likes to stay in the background ... I’m passionate ... I grew up everywhere ... I like to work with my hands ... I just turned 18 Sunday ... I lived in 12 group homes ... I just had my wisdom teeth out ... My mom did some bad things... I lived in Utah, then Arizona, then back to Utah and back to Arizona ... I’m so excited ...

They heard student body president Camden Marasco share this:

“Everyone is part of our family.”

Family and home. The words feel right to Lentz.

Fostering Futures admissions counselor Brady Farup talks with new students. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

She got through her challenging times as a youth with books.

“Foster care comes with trauma, and if you are in a bad place that’s where you can go. It’s an adventure where you get to go to different worlds,” she said. “You get to go to different places, and you get to live different lives.”

That’s how she decided to study marketing at GCU. “I’m hoping I can do marketing and advertising for books.”

Already, she has an evening student worker job as a cleaner, and when she gets off work, she can return to her residence hall room. It’s all hers.

“It’s nice to have adult space and not have to be quiet at 7 at night,” she said. “But I’ve also learned there is such a thing as too much quiet.”

That’s why she can’t wait for Welcome Week. She can’t wait to explore the clubs that she can join on campus.

“They even have a book club on campus,” she said. “I’m super excited. I get to meet new people and just be a part of it.”

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.

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Fostering Futures

GCU has partnered with the Arizona Department of Child Safety to create a college pathway program for students who have aged out of foster care that covers 100% of tuition and fees and room and board year-around. They also receive specialized admission and student services counselors, mentorship and tutoring, life skills programming, student worker opportunities and access to CityServe items and Fostering Futures events on campus.

In addition, any student attending GCU who has transitioned out of foster care will receive those services even if they aren't a scholarship recipient.

For more information on Fostering Futures, email [email protected]

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Related content:

GCU News: GCU unveils scholarships for Arizona foster children

GCU News: Foster care experts put their heads, hearts together

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