Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Margen Dishmon: Former foster youth flourishing at Grossmont College

Margen Dishmon
The odds were stacked against Margen Dishmon. A foster youth since the grandparents who were raising her passed away when she was a young teen, Dishmon found herself being shuttled through shelters and bouncing between foster homes. It didn’t take long to fall behind in her schooling. Her plans for the future were opaque at best.

“I missed so much of my education,” Dishmon said. “It really messed me up.”

How times have changed. Now 23, Dishmon graduates in June from Grossmont College with an associate degree in business administration. She already has been accepted to Cal State San Marcos, Cal State Los Angeles and San Francisco State University, and she is waiting to hear back from San Diego State University before deciding where to secure a bachelor’s degree in finance en route to a career running an organization helping foster youth find their way.

Her achievements have left an impression on many.

“Margen grew up in foster care, and she had very little support for college,” said Brian Woolsey, a Grossmont College counselor who works closely with current and former foster youth. “She faced both housing and food insecurity while at Grossmont, but she took advantage of the resources the college has, got involved with the nonprofit Just in Time for Foster Youth and worked hard to keep herself afloat financially – and to earn the grades to get into a good university. She is an amazing example of a student who set a goal and pursued it.”

Dishmon is among 75 former foster youth enrolled in the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, and she credits Grossmont College for keeping her on her path. “There are so many support services here,” she said. “You’d really have to try hard to not succeed.”

Dishmon sought help from Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS); she is active with the California Youth Connection, a program advocating for current foster youth; she is part of Guardian Scholars, an initiative providing a bevy of services to former foster youth; she attends weekly meetings of NextUp, a state-funded effort providing academic, career and personal counseling, grants, meal vouchers, transit passes and more to foster youth as they transition to independent living; and she volunteers with Just in Time for Foster Youth, which aids individuals such as Dishmon as they find their way as adults.

Dishmon’s commitment to excellence, meanwhile, has resulted in several scholarships from the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges.

Her road to Grossmont had more than its share of detours. Dishmon was living with her grandparents until they both passed away when Dishmon was 13. After a brief stay with an aunt in Chico, she moved to Santa Barbara and was placed in the foster care system.

“I lived in a lot of places in Santa Barbara,” Dishmon said, rattling off the names of group homes, shelter homes, and foster families. Her foster families, however, encouraged her to go to college. And when she graduated from high school, she did just that, enrolling at Santa Barbara City College.

Dishmon wasn’t prepared and started college at the lowest levels of math and English. “This left me with doubt that I would ever finish,” Dishmon said. “I was certain that it would take me forever to graduate.”

Her path changed when she took a class in finance, a class Dishmon said was the most difficult she has ever enrolled in. She also found a subject that she loved. She soon homed in on San Diego State University as her goal, but with the competition to get accepted there as a transfer student so high, Dishmon resolved to move to San Diego and attend Grossmont College.

“Grossmont has a great track record when it comes to transferring to San Diego State, and you really have to be from a community college in San Diego to have a good chance of getting in,” Dishmon said. “So here I am.”

She has not been disappointed. “The classes here are small and the teachers are hands-on. The business program is awesome, and the business professors are amazing. A lot of them have run their own business, so their coming from a real-world perspective.”

Dishmon aspires to lead a nonprofit serving current or former foster youth, and she would especially be interested in operating one that provides access to scholarships. “Scholarship funding really helped me out as a former foster youth, and I want to give back,” Dishmon said. “I want to help others who are dealing with the same challenges I was.”