OC Philanthropists Celebrate Foster Youth Grad Students

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The 2019 Orangewood Foundation scholars: (front row, left to right) Sharital Vicente, Victor Fletes, and Stephanie Duvernay; and (back row, left to right) Krystal Ramirez, Kathryn Ngo, Kimberly Smith, and Ariel Brown.
— Photo courtesy Shirley Pepys ©

Balboa Island resident Shirley Pepys opened her bayfront home on early last month to celebrate the academic achievements of Orangewood Foundation’s former foster youth.

The Aug. 11 summer party brought together young adults who have received scholarships for graduate programs from Orangewood’s advanced studies program, along with donors, and Orangewood board members and staff, according to a press release.

Nearly 40 guests enjoyed a sunset view of the Balboa Pavilion and passing sailboats, while feasting on caterer Thank Goodness It’s Sofia favorites such as skewers, mini chicken pot pies and roasted veggies, and dessert from CoCo’s Cookies and Nothing Bundt Cakes

The organization’s advanced studies program was started in 2009 by Pepys and other local philanthropists Renee Pepys Lowe and Dan Houck, officials explained in the message.

Long-time Orangewood supporter, former board member and current emeritus member, Pepys, and current board members Pepys Lowe and Houck, became aware of an Orangewood college scholarship student who was accepted into a master’s program at Harvard University. However, Orangewood’s scholarship program did not extend to graduate programs. As a result, the three of them created the advanced studies program, and the student successfully earned a master’s degree from Harvard University. Since then, Orangewood supporter Sandra Davis joined the trio in supporting the program.

The program is open to former foster youth who have been helped by other Orangewood programs and who have the desire to earn advanced degrees. Over the last 11 academic years, the advanced studies program has provided 142 scholarships totaling $958,000 to 67 former foster youth, officials explain in the press release. To date, 46 students have completed their advanced degrees or certificate programs, earning masters and doctorates in a variety of fields.

“These young adults are the one percent of the one percent,” referring to dismal educational statistics, Pepys said in a prepared statement. “They come from difficult childhoods as the victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment by their parents, and have overcome tremendous odds and are now pursuing masters and doctorate degrees throughout the United States, thanks to our program.”

For more information, visit orangewood4you.org/advanced-studies-fund.

(left to right) Dan Houck, Patricia Houck, Rich Dutch, Shirley Pepys, and Renee Pepys Lowe at the Orangewood event.
— Photo courtesy Shirley Pepys ©
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