Guardian Scholars Honored as Outstanding Program by JASPA

The Guardian Scholars Program at Loyola Marymount University was honored as the year’s most outstanding campus program in Jesuit higher education. Henry Ward, director of Intercultural Affairs, was also recognized for his commitment to diversity and social justice.

The program received the Ignatian Medal for an Outstanding Campus Program or Initiative at the Jesuit Association of Student Personnel Administrators (JASPA) annual conference. The award, which is given annually, is the only Ignatian Medal that recognizes an institution rather than an individual person. Additionally, Henry Ward of Ethnic and Intercultural Services (EIS) received the Outstanding Commitment to Diversity and Social Justice Award.

In its third year, the Guardian Scholars Program (GSP) serves as LMU’s one-stop-shop for resources, services and support for former and current foster youth, emancipated minors, homeless and independent students. The goal of the program, which is part of the Student Success area in Student Affairs, is for student to reflect on their personal and professional development through focusing on key areas including postgraduate success planning, career preparation, leadership development and co-curricular engagement.

“Guardian Scholars is a great example of the skills and talents of multiple constituents being used to create a program that has served to meet the unique needs of foster youth,”says Dr. Jennifer Belichesky-Larson, assistant dean of Student Success at LMU. “The program works to combat the disparities in access and support that typically exist for this population.”

By providing individualized services, programming and resources, GSP allows students who might otherwise not be able to persist at their education the support and opportunity to succeed in college. Consisting of a summer program, academic year engagement opportunities and a peer mentoring program, GSP supports students and fosters their success throughout the school year. GSP also provides funding for on-campus housing.

“I am very proud to be a part of the community we have built through the Guardian Scholars Program,” Julia Keighley, associate director of Student Success, says of winning the award. “The students involved have truly amazing spirits and are extremely determined.”

Despite working with a traditionally high risk and unsupported population, GSP boasts an astounding 100 percent retention rate for active students. In 2014, GSP graduated two students from LMU, and one scholar graduated in 2015.

“They have not excelled in spite of their backgrounds, but rather they use the strength they have gained through their experiences to press on and persevere,” adds Keighley. “I have been very humbled in my work with GSP students and they motivate me to become a better administrator.”

Also receiving recognition from JASPA, Henry Ward, director of Intercultural Affairs for EIS, was honored with the Outstanding Commitment to Diversity and Social Justice Award for demonstrating a strong commitment to issues of diversity and social justice in Jesuit higher education. Ward most recently created the Intercultural Facilitators Program, which recently received the Bronze Award in the 2015-16 NASPA Excellence Awards in the International, Multicultural, Gender, LGBTQ, Spirituality, Disability, and other related categories.

The JASPA Annual Spring Conference, which took place on March 13 at Butler University, is one of the signature events of the Jesuit Association of Student Personnel Administrators. It provides the opportunity for higher education professionals to engage more deeply with the shared Ignatian mission and to discuss current topics in higher education student affairs.