On Wednesday, October 11, 2017, former President of the Smith Renaissance Society, Shawn Cervantes came into the KZSC Radio Station to talk about the organization and the current exhibition at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History “Lost Childhoods,” about California foster youth, and an opportunity to spend time with the creators of this powerful exhibit, including current and former foster youth, Smith Society students, and artists and advocates. Shawn brought with her a former Smith Fellow, Bonnie Bea, and current “Smithie”, Jack.
The mission of the Smith Renaissance Society is to create a cross-generational community that provides academic, personal, social and financial support to UCSC students who lack the traditional family support afforded to most of their peers. Typically, these students have multiple adverse childhood experiences including, but not limited to, neglect, abuse, abandonment, or homelessness. Students may identify as being current or former foster youth, wards of the court, runaways, orphans, children of incarcerated parents, or children of parents with severe mental illness.
To hear our interview, please click on the play button below:
Smith Collegiate Fellows are UCSC students who belong to a community of caring friends and mentors committed to their personal and academic success. On graduation, Collegiate Fellows continue to belong to a friendly network to provide contacts and encouragement as they head to graduate school or careers.
Senior Fellows are members of the Smith community, including mentors, donors, and Smith alumni who do the work of the Society. Led by the Board of Directors made up of Smith graduates as well as current and retired faculty and staff, the Society offers financial aid, mentoring, help navigating the University’s academic and administrative systems, priority enrollment in classes, academic and emotional support, priority year-round housing, social activities, and the chance to reach out to youth in the foster care system and local homeless shelters.
Bill Dickinson founded the program as a living memorial to Page Smith, the historian and founding Cowell College provost, and his artist wife, Eloise.
The Smiths had been instrumental in Dickinson’s growth as a young adult. Having grown up in an orphanage and foster homes, going on his own when he was 16, Dickinson was one of the first students to arrive on the new UC Santa Cruz campus in 1965.
“The Smiths, together with the caring, competent, committed community they gathered, helped me make my way forward to an adult life of which I feel pretty proud,” said Dickinson. “That is what we try to offer our students.”
The Smith Renaissance Society, as it’s now known, is remarkably successful—the graduation rate of alumni, called Smith Collegiate Fellows, is higher than the UC and UC Santa Cruz average.