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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

COE Graduate Student Gets 2018 Community Impact Award

Poppy Fitch

She knows what it takes for a foster youth to make it to college and succeed.

Poppy Fitch lived through the whole process.

Her commitment and contributions to helping other students succeed earned Fitch the Junior League of San Diego’s (JLSD) Community Impact Award for 2018.


“Receiving (the award) was particularly meaningful to me given the important work of Junior League San Diego – their efforts focus on critical issues such as transition aged foster youth and on the entrenched and complex issue of human trafficking,” said Fitch, who is pursuing her doctoral degree at the College of Education in Doctoral Educational Leadership Community College/Post-Secondary Leadership. “I see the League as a body of women empowered as change agents and am honored to have been selected for their Spirit of Community Award.”

According to its website, the Junior League of San Diego, Inc. is part of an international organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.

“Poppy spoke of her upbringing as a foster youth, which is of critical interest to the Junior League of San Diego and our community focus and moved the audience with her uplifting words of triumph and philanthropy,” said Junior League of San Diego President Joni Flaherty of Fitch’s speech when she received the award.

Fitch ended up in foster care due to her mother’s mental illness. In 1989, when she aged out of the system, she had few options and faced an uncertain future.

However, she said she feels lucky. Fitch’s path led her to a local community college.

“I found myself at Grossmont College and connected with mentors who took a sincere interest in my success. I worked, got married, had my two children, finished my bachelors and later my master’s,” said Fitch, who went on to work at Grossmont and Cuyamaca Colleges in the Disabled Student Programs & Services offices for over 15 years and is now the associate vice president of Student Affairs at Ashford University.

“My focus, both professionally and as a scholar has been on shifting the focus to institutional responsibility to support student outcomes, so that all students are free to reach their fullest potential through the transformative power of education,” Fitch said. “I feel that my life and the lives of my children are evidence of the life-changing impact of higher education, and I bring this lens and passion to my work and to my community.”

Fitch’s good news continues.

She successfully defended her doctoral dissertation, Patchworking Our Futures: A Model of Foster Youth College Success.

“As a result, I’ve had the opportunity to share the findings of my research on foster youth college graduates in order to help institutions embrace and employ practices that support this vulnerable student population,” said Fitch, who will be looking for opportunities to work in a community college “where I can put to work the knowledge and skills that I have gained as a student in the Community College Leadership program.”