Tiffany Chung was 11 when a social worker insisted that she and her two sisters go to Orangewood Children’s Home, the county’s temporary shelter for abused and neglected children, to protect them from their sometimes-violent father. Her mother had abandoned the family about six years earlier. Eventually, Chung was able to live with an aunt and “bounced around” among other extended family, attending 13 different schools before graduating from Fountain Valley High School with honors.
This month, through the support of the Orangewood Guardian Scholars Program, Chung will receive her social science degree, specializing in public and community service. Currently, she plans to spend part of her summer in Sacramento, participating in the California Senate Fellows program. She is also an alternate for the Coro Fellows Program, which provides graduate leadership training in public affairs.
Taking the next year to choose a graduate school, Chung ultimately wants to pursue social welfare advocacy and help create public policy on the state or federal level. “Graduate school will be a whole new chapter in my life, and I’m so grateful to all the people rooting for me,” she says.
Joe Maestas, UCI director of student academic advancement, counsels Orangewood scholars. “Tiffany has worked extremely hard, taking advantage of every opportunity,” he says. As a sophomore, Chung participated in the Summer Academic Enrichment Program that sharpens the skills of students interested in graduate school. In 2002, she completed a University of Michigan program in Public Policy and International Affairs. In a University of Washington program, she researched the availability of public shelters for pregnant homeless women, then spent one quarter in a UCDC program with the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. She also completed a year of field work for her major at Toby’s House, a maternity shelter in Capistrano Beach.
Both Chung and another Orangewood scholar graduating this month are peer mentors at Orangewood, giving back to current foster children some of the advice and understanding they received when it was most needed in their lives.