Riverside County Foster Youth Overcomes Tragedy and Celebrates Graduation at Harvest
RIVERSIDE — Wasinee Nugsiang overcame heartache and adversity to join more than 100 highs school seniors who turned their tassels at a special high school graduation ceremony for Riverside County foster youth and young adults held earlier this week at Harvest Christian Fellowship Church.
Nugsiang, 18, came to the U.S. from Thailand three years ago with her mother. Shortly after arriving to California, her mother became terminally ill with cancer and could no longer care for her.
For Nugsiang, foster care opened a world of opportunity that she is very grateful for. “For the first time, I had a room of my own,” she said, adding how she enjoys Jiu-Jitsu, hiking, karaoke, swimming, skating, and badminton in her free time.
Statewide, students in foster care are among the most academically at-risk with just 55% graduating from high school in contrast to nearly 84% of their peers. They experience greater risks of homelessness, addiction, mental illness as well as involvement in the criminal justice system.
Nugsiang was recognized for being one of nine foster graduates accepted to a four-year university during the celebration at Harvest. The 18-year-old, who plans to attend UC San Diego and major in computer engineering, was accompanied by foster parents Becky Gosling-Addo and Kwame Addo. The couple had gotten to know the youth through their humanitarian work and gladly stepped in when they found out about her mother’s dire prognosis.
“It was her mother’s wish that we provide a home for Wasi, which we gladly accepted,” said Gosling-Addo, who is president of the Rotary Club of Riverside. “We are so proud of her and all of the other graduates that are so deserving of an event like this one after everything they have gone through to make it here today.”
This year’s graduates donned white and black caps and gowns and candy leis while they walked down a red carpet accompanied by a round of cheers. They also received gift baskets and other celebratory tokens made possible through donations from faith-based communities and other county partners like Inland Empire Health Plan and Amazon.
“Our hearts are so full when we see these beautiful and bright people around us,” said Charity Douglas, assistant director of Children’s Services at the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS). “I am so excited for what your future holds and congratulate, acknowledge, and celebrate each one of you for your focus, determination, and leadership.”
Photo caption above: Wasinee Nugsiang (center), 18, poses with her foster parents Kwame Addo and Becky Gosling-Addo during the 2022 high school celebration for Riverside County foster youth.
- Graduate: Riverside County Department of Public Social Services