A backpack, a notebook, shampoo and a slice of pizza took on a new meaning recently when former foster care children who are now students at Sierra College shared their stories. The students were grateful for help from the Sierra College Foundation, along with the help of area businesses, service groups and residents that was starting them on the right foot for the school year by giving them school supplies and vouchers for books. It is programs like that which help foster students that are money well spent because they are helping a student develop a positive future. Programs such as those need to receive continued funding and support. For the start of the fall semester, the foundation gave 100 former foster students backpacks filled with school supplies including notebooks, flash drives, scientific calculators, shampoo, soap and toothpaste. Former foster care students also received $200 vouchers for textbooks. The value of the assistance was put into perspective by 23-year-old Sierra College sophomore James Weems, who spent three years moving around as a foster child. He is now studying psychology. “Part of being a productive student is the other side, where you take a few hours and relax and get yourself back together,” Weems told the Journal. “It’s not much, but it’s enough extra money to go get a piece of pizza with your friends on the weekend and experience college like a college student instead of always struggling.” That’s not to say every source of funding is going to the local pizza place, but more to show that it allows students to focus on what’s important – their academics – and feel like they can have a life outside of their studies. The help for those students is a great example of collaboration among the community. In 2007, the College Transitional Support Team was formed under a grant from the city of Roseville and today has support from 22 organizations, businesses and residents. Help comes in the form of Soroptimist International of the Loomis Basin and an anonymous donor covering the cost of five rooms with 10 beds in the dorm hall. The price tag for one semester of living on campus is about $3,350. In addition to that, some students received refurbished laptops while others are gifted handmade quilts and pillowcases made by the Sun City Roseville Needle Arts Quilting and Knitting Club. Being provided school supplies and books during his initial year helped 19-year-old Jerome Jackson, a former foster child from Oakland, save enough money to buy a car. Jackson said he wants to become an electrical engineer. Currently, the college estimates 75 to 100 former foster care children register annually and since efforts to help them began, the retention rate has increased from 20 percent to 80 percent. That’s a great statistic and hopefully will only increase further. It is collaboration, such as the efforts put toward helping former foster youth, that make the work of the foundation, organizations, businesses and residents feel worthwhile. In the past, the Journal has criticized the foundation for a decision to dedicate over $85,000 over three years to the Natural History Museum at the college in May because it’s not the right time to use funds for history when current students are struggling today. Seeing the need among students such as Weems and Jackson only reinforces how funds can be put to such great use. It’s good to see money from the foundation and community efforts spent in a way that helps shape a youth’s future in a positive manner and hopefully that kind of funding will remain a priority.