Petersen Scholars Focus on Academic Success

Seven women stand outdoors on a college campus together in a line. They are smiling and facing the camera. A building behind them reads EQUITY CENTER. PCF staff members Jeannine Bogaard, Sarah Hilbert, and Cirenia Amador visited four Petersen Scholars at Mt. San Antonio College in April.

In April, three Pasadena Community Foundation staff members visited four of the seven Petersen Scholars who attend Mt. San Antonio College (Mt. Sac). The students are transition age foster youth (TAY) who have navigated many obstacles to attend college. Over a delightful lunch, we learned that even with those challenges, these students are thriving in their first year in the Petersen Scholars Program.

Each of the four young women hold a job outside of school, but all agree that the Petersen Scholars Program has allowed them to focus on being a more stable student by mitigating long work hours, inflation, and general stress. They also receive important support from the campus REACH Guardian Scholars Program, which assists current and former foster youth in their transition into college, while attending Mt. San Antonio College, and as they graduate or transfer to a University.

Scholar Mia points out that TAY “need to rely on extra resources that we don’t get from parents. Normal kids have parents, and we don’t. I’ve learned here to acknowledge that it’s different for us. Not a bad thing as much as it is a challenge.”

Keep reading below to hear from each scholar about how the scholarship has supported her journey.

A photo collage features the photo of four young adult women and their names: Ilene, Natalie, Kaylee, and Mia.
The Petersen Scholars Program supports seven students at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California. PCF met with four of the students (pictured) in April to learn about their academic challenges and successes.


Ilene has been a student at Mt. Sac for three years. She took a career orientation test and learned that she would be good at hospital and clinical settings, so she chose histology (the study of tissue) as her major. She is working on her clinical hours and is about half way through the program.

“I am a student throughout the week, so I have to work on weekends. Prices are rising, and it’s hard to even get groceries. The scholarship allowed me not to have to work over the entire weekend. Science classes are challenging and time consuming. I need the time to study, and being a Petersen Scholar helps me not have to do everything. I can focus on being a student.”


Natalie is a sociology major. She started Mt. Sac in the fall of 2018 but took a couple years off. She would like to be a social worker in higher-ed because she has received so much support from the campus social workers as she struggled through some of her academic journey.

“The REACH Program and the Petersen scholarship provide unconditional support and helps us with setting our goals and becoming more confident in the path we choose. We learn about ourselves and can make friends. They are there with open arms, even during the time I left school.”


Kaylee is a nursing major and hopes to be a pediatric nurse working in a NICU. She has been at Mt. Sac for two years. When applying for college, she was surprised and happy to learn that Mt. Sac had a program for TAY. She reports that the REACH Program has provided her with gift cards for some of her basic needs and even helped her with driving school.
“I’ve always wanted to do something in the medical field. I participated in a sports medicine program in high school for two years and took medical terminology classes. The scholarship is helping me reach my goals — I can count on that money coming in.”


Mia is a liberal arts major and hopes to be a middle school teacher. “I love the way that kids think. I just want to be a support system that I didn’t have as a kid.” She has been at Mt. Sac. for three years, a time frame that she likens to both a journey and a roller coaster. She loves the REACH Program as it provides students like her constant encouragement.

“The Petersen scholarship has allowed me to be more of a student. We (TAY students) don’t have parents who could provide resources. It has made it easier to map things out and not feel unstable, like you’re always playing catch up.”

A graphic with black text reads: Petersen Scholars Program at a Glance
Established thanks to a $10 million gift to PCF from the Petersen Foundation for The Robert and Margie Petersen Scholarship Endowment for Transition Age Foster Youth (TAY).
Launched in the fall of 2022 with 27 students. 
Works to remove the typical obstacles encountered by TAY as they pursue their education.
Supports students at three community colleges: Pasadena City College, Los Angeles Community College, and Mt. San Antonio College. 
Each scholarship extends for two years, providing scholars a $5,000 stipend each year.
Transition age foster youth encounter numerous obstacles in enrolling and staying in college. The Petersen Scholars Program is designed to mitigate some of those challenges and help keep the students focused on academic success.