MEET THE Foster SCHOLARS
Dr. Jamie L. Bennett has a decade of experience in direct practice, training, and consulting for organizations who aim to improve outcomes for young adults leaving foster care. She holds a Bachelors and Master’s degree in Social Work and Doctorate of Education. Jamie's research agenda focuses on coaching methods for college support staff working with students from foster care. Jamie is the Executive Director of Cetera, a non-profit in St. Petersburg, FL that aims to increase educational and housing support for young adults leaving foster care in the Tampa Bay region, and serves as the lead youth engagement partner for the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. Jamie is also the Senior Trainer for the Fostering Success Coach Training and participated in the launch of the Seita Scholars Program at Western Michigan University. Jamie has coached dozens of college students from foster care and led the Fostering Success Coach Training, developing curriculum and providing training to hundreds of education and child welfare professionals working with students from foster care in several states. As an alumna of the foster care system, Jamie is passionate about practice and programming that improves holistic outcomes for young adults who have experience in foster care.
JAMIE L. BENNETT, EdD, LMSW, ACC
Executive Director, Cetera
Owner, JLB Training and Consulting
Senior Trainer, Fostering Success Coach Training
SARA I. GAMEZ, EdD
Associate Director for Student Support & Equity Program, Cal Poly Pomona
Dr. Sara I. Gamez is an immigrant, with lived-experience in foster care, and a first-generation college graduate. She has spent over 16 years of her career in educational helping roles assisting students who are first-generation, low-income, homeless, and those who have experienced foster care to access resources, empower themselves through education, and to graduate from college.
Dr. Gamez currently serves as the Associate Director for Student Support & Equity Programs at Cal Poly Pomona, assisting to oversee the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), the Renaissance Scholars (RS) foster youth support program, and the Veterans Resource Center. She has served as an educational counselor, program coordinator and Director of two foster youth support programs at the university level where she developed and provided critical support services and programming to increase the retention and graduation rates of young people with experience in foster care. Additionally, Dr. Gamez has led campus wide, regional and national efforts. She led and organized the efforts on her campus to address student food and housing insecurity through the development of what is now known as the Broncos Care - Basic Needs Initiative. Regionally she provides leadership and advocacy serving as the chair for the Southern California Higher Education Foster Youth Consortium, where Student Affairs professionals across Southern California gather to share best practices and create a network of support for campus representatives engaged in serving foster youth students on college campuses. Nationally she has served as co-chair for the Community on Homelessness and Foster Care, under the Socioeconomic and Class Issues in Higher Education Knowledge Community (SCIHE-KC) within NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. In recognition of Dr. Gamez's dedication and commitment to improving the lives of foster youth in higher educations and her contributions to the field, she was recognized by John Burton Advocates for Youth as the 2017 College Hero, and most recently recognized by NASPA's SCIHE-KC as the 2021 Outstanding Professional.
Dr. Gamez’s research interests are primarily on the experiences of foster youth in college. Her dissertation research was titled Moving in, moving through, and moving out: The transitional experiences of foster youth college students. She also wrote an insightful blog titled College foster youth, family privilege and the holidays through NASPA, and has a book chapter forthcoming titled Fostering Success: Supporting College-Going Foster Youth on Campus.
Dr. Gamez holds a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies from Cal Poly Pomona, a Master of Science in Educational Counseling from the University of La Verne, and an Educational Doctorate in Educational Leadership from California State University, Long Beach.
ANGELA E HOFFMAN-COOPER, PhD Candidate
Senior Director, Marketing Communications, Northland College
Instructor - Psychology and Sociology, Finlandia University
More About Angela: AngelaHoffmanCooper.com
Angela E. Hoffman-Cooper, PhD Candidate is an advocate, educator, and scholar. Aging out of foster care fueled her determination and her life's work supporting youth with experience in foster care in their pursuit of education. Angela has experience working in a number of higher education setting including: campus housing, critical incidents and case management, admissions, orientation, and student success initiatives. In these roles, Angela worked with campus-based support programs for students with experience in foster care and developed a number of student-centered programs and resources including a curriculum of workshops, community building events, and a faculty-scholar mentor program. She also has advised students through the honors project and taught honors pathway courses on human-centered design thinking. She has presented on promising practices at a number of regional and national conferences and has led youth empowerment workshops.
As a scholar-practitioner, Angela positions her research as a form of advocacy and partners with youth with experience in foster care. She received her bachelor's degree in Psychology with minors in Spanish and Social and Behavioral Studies from Michigan Technological University and her master's in Educational Leadership and Policy with an emphasis in Student Affairs Administration from the University of Utah. Her master's thesis is titled From Foster Care to College: The Role of Student Affairs Practitioners in Addressing the Challenges Foster Youth Face in Accessing Higher Education. She has continued her studies and is a third year doctoral student in the Higher Education Leadership PhD Program at Colorado State University, focusing her research on the identity development of students with experience in foster care.
More recently, Angela has served in director leadership roles with non-profit associations, coordinating professional development events for higher education practitioners and assessment professionals and maintaining organization operations ranging from volunteer coordination, budget oversight, and strategic planning. Currently, Angela serves as the Director of Conference and Events with the Association for the Study of Higher Education. Angela also teaches as an adjunct instructor at Finlandia University in psychology and sociology.
KIZZY LOPEZ, EdD
Assistant Professor in Social Work, Fresno Pacific University
Adjunct Faculty, Clovis Community College
Senior Evaluator, Sankofa Consulting
Dr. Kizzy Lopez has worked in higher education for 15 years in academic and student affairs as a champion for educational equity for underserved students, particularly those who have experienced foster care or homelessness. Dr. Lopez currently is an Assistant Professor in Social Work at Fresno Pacific University. She is also adjunct faculty at Clovis Community College, and a Senior Evaluator for Sankofa Consulting, LLC.
As a practitioner, Dr. Lopez led the effort to create a campus-based program for foster and homeless youth at Fresno State known as the Renaissance Scholars Program (RSP). This program is designed to increase college access and graduation rates for foster and homeless youth attending the university. She was the founding coordinator and served in this role for 10 years. During that time, she served over 200 students, developed innovative services and practices that increased student retention and graduation rates. Dr. Lopez was the national co-chair for the Community on Homelessness and Foster Care, under the Socioeconomic and Class Issues in Higher Education Knowledge Community within NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.
As a scholar, Dr. Lopez is a speaker on educational equity and foster care. She is a TEDx speaker on the topic, The Trauma of Being Black in Foster Care. Dr. Lopez has co-authored publications focused on strategies to support college-going foster youth, including Fostering Success: Supporting College-Going Foster Youth on Campus and Transitional-Age Foster Youth: Getting Them Into and Through College. She has been previously recognized for her contributions and received Fresno Black Magical Woman, Fresno’s Heroes Unmasked Award, Rosa Parks Award, Child Advocacy Award, and Diversity and Social Justice Advocate Award.
MOLLY SARUBBI, PhD
Senior Project Manager
Education Commission of the States
More About Molly:
Dr. Molly Sarubbi earned her Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Denver and her M.A. in higher education and student affairs from the University of Rochester. Her diverse experiences as a scholar-practitioner has afforded her over 15 years of nonprofit management expertise and multiple leadership roles in student affairs, teaching, education policy and advocacy.
Her current academic research focuses on education outcomes for traditionally marginalized populations. Specifically, she addresses educational pathways for foster care alumni and the resulting imperatives for higher education policy and practice. She has presented her research and counsel at various local, national, and international presentations and authored multiple publications calling for interdisciplinary and transformative policies and programs for foster care alumni. Additionally she has served in multiple teaching and research endeavors focusing on equity and access in higher education and qualitative research methods. Molly also serves in multiple advocacy, outreach, and consulting roles regarding personal and educational supports for youth currently in care and foster care alumni and has served as a CASA Advocate for the last 12 years.
Molly believes in the power of integrative education policy to positively impact equitable outcomes for students and communities at scale. As a Policy Researcher, Dr. Sarubbi has engaged in state-level education policy serving leaders in all 50 states through reports and counsel regarding foster care alumni degree attainment and a variety of other P20 and workforce development policy issues. Currently, Dr. Sarubbi serves as a Senior Project Manager at the Education Commission of the States (ECS) leading the SSTF national network of partner organizations providing technical assistance for systems and institutions to drive equity outcomes at scale.