FYRE Spotlight

Sarah Childress

We are back with our FYRE Spotlight today, and unfortunately, this is our last one for Foster Care awareness month. To complete our event we are shining a light on our fellow FYRE scholar and Peer Mentor, Sarah Childress! She is a third-year Psychological Science major here at UCI. With her major and her professional experience, she hopes to work with children in adoption or social work, or in education and counseling. In her free time, Sarah loves watching Disney movies, drawing, and listening to music!

Sarah is a great member of our team amongst the FYRE Peer Mentors, she has helped the FYRE Scholars program by assisting in the coordination and planning of our events, makes our flyers and works with Janet Perez-Molina to make our amazing weekly newsletter! Sarah has been an active FYRE scholar since her freshman year, her favorite memory from FYRE was our retreat to O’Neill Regional Park in Fall 2019. She loved our bond fire where we all shared some s’ mores,  had some great laughs, and even some tears. 

In the spirit of Foster Care Awareness month Sarah shares her advice on how she overcame personal challenges that she faced during her journey here at UCI to foster youth: 

“A challenge that I have had to overcome is accepting who I am. I really struggled with this and still do occasionally. It was a matter of changing my mindset. I just had to tell myself that I was the only person that could define who I was and not listen to the people that were trying to put me in the boxes that they thought I belonged in.”

Thank you Sarah for sharing us a little about you and share your advice to foster youth. As we complete our FYRE Spotlight, we hope that our scholars and their stories will be heard and shared amongst the foster youth community. We thank every single person we had a chance to shine a spotlight on. As we continue our work to spread awareness for foster youth through our program, we hope to eventually shine a spotlight on all foster youth and FYRE scholars to share their great accomplishments and work! Join our efforts to spread awareness by sharing FYRE’s mission and give us a follow and a like!

Elizabeth Lee

Welcome back to FYRE Spotlight! We continue to recognize our fellow FYRE scholars for the month of May to raise awareness for Foster Youth. Today we are shining a spotlight on Elizabeth Lee! She is a fourth-year Film and Media Studies here at UCI! With her major, she aspires to become a creative director and producer where she wants to spread awareness for the Asian American experience as well as in mental health through art/storytelling! So inspiring! In her free time, Elizabeth loves listening to all kinds of music like jazz to help her relax, and visit places of nature like the beach. 

Elizabeth is a senior who will be graduating this quarter as class of 2020! She thanks the FYRE Scholars program for providing a safe space, community, and resources that helped her to feel like she belonged here at UCI. It is difficult for our seniors this quarter who cannot walk the stage, so we wanted to take a moment and thank Elizabeth for everything she has done for the FYRE Scholars program and wish her luck on her endeavors! 

Elizabeth has overcome many challenges throughout her journey here at UCI; she hopes her advice for other foster youth will inspire them to become leaders in their community: “The biggest challenges I had to overcome as a former foster youth is the feeling of doubt and loneliness. It is one thing to feel alone in this journey but also not having any role models to look up to made me doubt my abilities. Now I am a leader in my community because I take pride in being a part of this community. My experiences and struggles have made me stronger and able to teach others that anything is possible if you truly believe.”

Thank you Elizabeth for sharing us your a little about yourself and helping us in our mission to spread awareness for foster care awareness month! Join our efforts to spread awareness by sharing FYRE’s mission and give us a follow and a like! 

Markett Colbert

Welcome back to FYRE spotlight! This lovely Friday we are shining a light on our fellow FYRE scholar, Marketta Colbert! She is a fourth-year Political Science and Sociology major here at UCI. She aspires to become a lawyer and hopefully a supreme court judge as she pursues her degree! How awesome! During her free time, Marketta enjoys listening to her favorite song, “Favorite Mistake” by Giveon. In addition to being a FYRE Scholar, Marketta is also a UCI representative and part of CA for Apartments. 

Marketta has had a long journey throughout her college experience, she thanks the FYRE program for giving her a community and a safe space where she did not feel pressured to share her story, instead she was comforted with friends and students who share a similar background. During her undergraduate experience, the FYRE program has helped her feel grounded at UCI, where over time she was able to grow and reach her potential as a mentor and as an individual. 

In the spirit of Foster Care Awareness month, Marketta shares what challenges she had to overcome as a foster youth, and hopes it inspires others: 

“I’ve personally overcome the self-stigma and the idea that I was unlovable because I am a foster youth. I used to hide that part of my identity but I’ve embraced it and am unafraid to share my story which also allows me to be a leader in the foster youth community.” 

Thank you, Marketta for sharing us a little about you and opening-up! We hope that Marketta’s story inspires other foster youth to do great things! We will continue to spread awareness for foster youth during the month of May. Join our efforts to spread awareness by sharing FYRE’s mission and give us a follow and a like!

Eileen Fonseca

We are starting off the week with a FYRE spotlight for Eileen Fonseca! She is a second-year Criminology, Law and Society major here at UCI. With her major, she aspires to pursue a career in law enforcement, but she is still exploring what department and field she wants to be part of. In her free time,  Eileen likes to unwind by listening to her favorite song Cough Syrup by Young the Giant and exercising. 

In addition to being part of the FYRE Scholars program, Eileen works at the Anteater Recreation Center and is a member of the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) here at UCI. Unlike our previous FYRE Spotlights, Eileen is a second-year which means she is still continuing her journey here at UCI and working hard to build her resume, her network, and career goals. Eileen’s journey was made easier by our program as she feels that FYRE gave her the support and confidence to thrive academically and personally. As a first-generation and foster youth student, UCI was unfamiliar territory to Eileen, she was able to see her full potential with the help of the FYRE program.

Eileen’s struggles are one of many experiences that are shared amongst first-generation and foster youth students; to help inspire other foster youth in their personal endeavors Eileen shares what advice she would tell to her younger self: “I would tell my younger self and former foster youth that the world is tough, but that you are as well. I know this is cliche, but adversity makes you adverse to being knocked down without the will to get back up. Failure is inevitable and people will doubt your potential, but this does not mean that you cannot succeed. College is possible, there are people like me waiting to include you in this amazing community of former foster youth or foster youth college students!”

Thank you, Eileen, for sharing your story! We hope to continue to see you thrive throughout your third and fourth year here at UCI! We will continue to spread awareness for foster youth during the month of May. Join our efforts to spread awareness by sharing FYRE’s mission and give us a follow and a like!

Karen Garcia

It is that time of the week again, where we take a moment and shine a spotlight on one of our fellow FYRE scholars! Today our spotlight shines on Karen Garcia! She is a third-year transfer student who is majoring in psychology here at UCI. Her favorite animals are white sea lions and sea otters, and her favorite pastime activities are going to the beach, painting, and reading poetry.

Similarly, to our previous FYRE scholar Joseph Spaziano, Karen is also a transfer student. She transferred to UCI from Long Beach Community College; her first Fall quarter was not easy as she was really shy and had to adapt to a new environment. Slowly Karen was able to get out of her comfort zone with the help of past FYRE events that let her feel comfortable. One of her favorite FYRE memories was our FYRE Welcome Dinner in Fall 2019 because she really enjoyed meeting other people and getting out of her bubble! 

Karen has grown so much since she transferred here to UCI, not only is she part of FYRE Scholars program, she is part of the Foster Student Ambassadors and she is a Peer Academic Advisor for the School of Social Sciences where she now helps other students with their academics to help them with schedule planning, course advising, and graduation.

With her experiences, Karen shares what advice would she give to her younger self and other foster youth: 

To my younger self and current foster youth, I’ll start by saying that everything is going to be okay. One day you’re going to look past all this and laugh. Don’t sacrifice your happiness and love yourself first because you are beautiful and important. Don’t ever let others define who you are. Appreciate who you are, how far you’ve come, and give yourself credit. You are absolutely worth it.” 

Thank you Karen for sharing with us a little about yourself and we wish you luck on your journey here at UCI. We will continue to spread awareness for foster youth during the month of May. Join our efforts to spread awareness by sharing FYRE mission and give us a follow and a like! 

Morgan Matthews

Continuing our FYRE spotlight, today we are shining a light on our fellow FYRE scholar, Morgan Matthews! She is a first-year art major here at UCI and aspires to become a graphic designer or an illustrator. In addition to being part of FYRE, Morgan is also part of UCI’s VocaLotus Acappella where she continues to expand her artistry in different fields. In addition to indulging and pursuing the arts, Morgan enjoys reading as a past time activity!

Unlike our previous FYRE spotlights, Morgan is one of our newest members here at FYRE, throughout her first year she has been able to learn about UCI and its resources through FYRE and her mentor, Sarah Childress. As she continues her journey here at UCI, Morgan is looking forward to future FYRE activities to build connections amongst the FYRE program; one of her fondest memories was playing giant Jenga at our FYRE Harvest during the Fall quarter!

To inspire other foster youth who have been recently admitted to UCI and continue to raise awareness for Foster Care Awareness Month, Morgan passes some advice on how she overcame challenges as a foster youth: 

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to overcome is the social aspect of not really fitting in. Growing up, I was pretty clearly different from everyone else. I didn’t look fully American or fully Chinese, so finding where I belonged was really difficult and I never met someone who had a story similar to mine until coming into the FYRE program. I wouldn’t consider myself a leader in the community yet because I spent so long trying to ignore that part of my life and I’m just starting to participate in the community.”

Thank you Morgan for sharing about yourself and help to continue the spirit for Foster Care Awareness Month. We wish you the best with your journey here at UCI and we will always be here to support you!

Joseph Spaziano

Today’s FYRE spotlight is dedicated to one of our graduating seniors and FYRE Peer Mentor, Joseph Spaziano. He is a fourth-year Biological Sciences major here at UCI and hopes to become a steward for the environment by pursuing a teaching endeavor or research for the field once he graduates. In his free time, Joseph enjoys listening to classical music and 90’s rock and has taken up piano practice!

Joseph will be graduating from UCI this spring quarter; he has expressed how he will miss being a FYRE Peer Mentor for our fellow scholars because he felt like he was part of UCI’s community. One of his favorite memories during his journey here at UCI was our bond fire activity during the FYRE retreat back in 2019. 

In the spirit of Foster Care Awareness month, Joseph shares what challenges he overcame as a former foster youth and how he was a leader in the foster youth community: “I have faced consequences for bad choices that I made when I was younger. I lacked guidance, but found my own mentors that helped me to uncover my own values and taught me how to live a principled life. With these lessons, I was able to ask for help and become willing to receive it with aspirations to be one who could do the same for others in the future.”

Joesph has grown so much since he transferred here to UCI, he has excelled in his courses, helped other FYRE scholars through his mentorship, and has worked hard to get into a Ph.D. program! We are thankful for Joseph, his dedication, and his work here for the FYRE program. We wish him luck as he continues his journey as a former foster youth, UCI alumni, and as a future educator.

Cameron Harrison

o continue raising awareness for Foster Care Awareness Month, today’s FYRE Spotlight we are shining on Cameron Harrison! He is a third-year art major here at UCI. Once he graduates from, he is interested in becoming a creature designer or a concept artist—how cool! Some of his favorite pastime activities are listening to metal, rock, and classical rap, as well as drawing and skateboarding. 

Cameron has one more year left for his journey here at UCI; however, his journey was not easy to get to where he is now. Cameron worked very hard on his academics, he raised his GPA up to a 3.2 after making the difficult decision to switch majors. As a first-generation student, he overcame challenges and got to be on the Dean’s list!

For incoming current and former foster youth that have been admitted to UCI Cameron reminds them to “Trust in the FYRE program and don’t be shy to ask for things you need because they usually can help or point you in the right direction….[FYRE] has allowed me to be able to get the resources and help I need to be able to succeed in college.” 

FYRE focuses on providing our FYRE scholars with the best resources and assistance for their academic and career goals. We have our program counselor, Janet Perez-Molina, to thank for how much the program has expanded and improved over the years! Students like Cameron have been able to work with her to achieve their goals and expand their horizons at UCI. 

Shanya Van Blarcom

To start off Foster Care Awareness Month today we are putting the spotlight on Shanya Van Blarcom! She is a fourth-year, Criminology & Psychology and Social Behavior major here at UCI. After graduating from UCI this spring quarter, she aspires to become a FBI Special Agent. In between her busy schedule and career planning, Shanya enjoys Taekwondo and attending the UCI’s Taekwondo club.

Shanya is graduating this spring quarter, and we wanted to thank her for everything she has done for FYRE. Her favorite memory is when she helped out FYRE with another fellow FYRE scholar giving a tour of UCI to potential FYRE scholars from community colleges!

To spread encouragement and inspire other former or current foster youth we asked Shanya what advice she would share to foster youth and her past self?

She said: “Don’t accept limits that others have imposed on you. Don’t accept statistics that are not in your favor. Allow yourself to ask for help because it is a strength to seek support when you need it. Most importantly don’t give up on your educational or career goals because with patience, hard work, and perseverance you will achieve it. The only limits that you have are the limits that you accept. .”

Thank you Shanya for sharing your story with FYRE and others who see your story. We hope that our weekly FYRE spotlights will be seen by other foster youth and inspire the fire in them. Spread the awareness and support for our fellow foster youth!