Justine R. Cheung, MSW – Bridging Success Program Coordinator
I’m Justine Cheung and I have been the Bridging Success Program Coordinator since June 2015. The work I do with the Bridging Success is extremely gratifying! I have the opportunity to engage with some extremely talented and resilient students who have experienced foster care. They are excited and ready to start a new life and being able to support them as they make these big transitions is an awesome thing to witness. I’m also extremely impressed with the amount of support Bridging Success and its student receive from ASU staff and faculty. Also, our community partners are always there to help our students with outside resources. It’s just AMAZING how our community is able to wrap around these young people so they have every chance of succeeding!
I currently hold an undergraduate and graduate degree from ASU’s School of Social Work, and am currently pursuing my PhD. After graduating with my BSW, I worked in the public mental and behavioral health care system, specializing is in peer-support, trauma informed care, and mental health recovery. Once I completed my MSW degree, I spent a year working with ASU’s Refugee Resettlement Committee and conducted research on Social Entrepreneurship. Research is an important part of my life and as a professional social worker I recognize the importance it plays and the responsibility I have to empower others to have the life they dream of.
Nikki Burgess – Peer Mentor
My name is Nikki Burgess and I was in the foster care system from ages 15 to 17, until I left my foster family to move into ASU's dorms. Now, I am a senior majoring in Social Justice with minors in Women and Gender Studies and Spanish. Because college has drastically transformed my life for the better, I am very passionate about supporting former foster youth throughout their journey at ASU. Unfortunately, however, Bridging Success did not exist when I was a freshman and I know that it would have made my transition so much easier, both personally and professionally; thus I cannot underscore enough how great of an opportunity this is, especially the Early Start Program! Although foster youth overcome great obstacles--particularly institutional ones--we are more than capable of succeeding in a university setting, especially with Bridging Success as the starting point.
Ryan Jordan – MSW Intern/Bridging Success Coach
I'm Ryan Jordan and I recently graduated from Arizona State with bachelor degrees in Psychology, Family and Human Development, and Women and Gender Studies. I decided to remain at ASU and am now currently in their Master of Social Work program. Coming to Bridging Success through the School of Social Work felt like a great opportunity to support students' unique transitions to the school I love, while learning about our state and national policies concerning foster youth. Building a support system and getting to know these students has been rewarding on both a personal and educational level. I hope to use this knowledge as I continue in my Master's program and use it to inform my future work as a LCSW in therapy and advocacy work with children and adolescents.
Cynthia Alaffa – Bridging Success Peer Mentor
My name is Cynthia Alaffa and I am a sophomore pursuing my undergraduate degree in Social Work. Through my first year at ASU I did a lot of exploring of majors. I started out as a nursing major and then switched to education and now I am in social work. I was very narrow minded on what I wanted to do, but once I started college my mind began to grow. I was able to explore more of who I am. I discovered I really enjoyed working with youth and want to help them grow and discover hidden features about themselves. As a result I chose to major in social work and I feel like I am home now. I started with Bridging Success as a student in the program August of 2015. I returned to the program as a peer mentor for 2016-2017 school year. Bridging Success has been a huge part of my college experience. I believe working as a peer mentor has helped expand my passion for wanting to pursue my undergraduate degree in Social Work. Through the next few years that I am here at ASU I hope to continue as a peer mentor for the program and see other students in the program grow. I am very pleased to be working with bridging success as a peer mentor and I cannot wait to see this program grow.
My name is Kalah Polsean and am a first-year Masters student in the Social Work and Public Administration concurrent degree program. I am originally from Rockford, Illinois and came to ASU as an out-of-state student to study Elementary Education-English as a Second Language. After graduating with my bachelor's degree, I began working in college access and success programs for high school and college students. My passion is to support and advocate for children in the child welfare system to ensure that all children have equal educational opportunities and outcomes. I am very excited to be part of the Bridging Success family and to support amazing Sun Devils!
My name is April Hanks and I was born and raised in Arizona. I graduated from Arizona State University with degrees in English and communication and am now back at ASU to pursue a master’s degree in social work. Having previously volunteered with foster youth, I am excited to work with and learn from the Bridging Success staff and students. These lessons will impact me greatly as I continue with my degree and pursue a career as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
"Yah'ah'teeh (Hello), my name is Kurt Holiday and I am a senior studying Social Work at our prestigious school, Arizona State University! I am a BSW intern and aim to apply what I learn from this program to becoming a culturally competent social worker. Much like you I too went through the foster care system and it sucked, having a social worker who did not care about my wellbeing but rather just moving from one case to the next. It isn't a good feeling, but that is my experience with the foster care system and I want to prevent others from sharing that type of experience. A lot of people can empathize with how we felt in that point of time of being in the foster system, but what we do with that truly defines us as individuals. With everything that has happened in my life, it has brought me to this point and will continue to push me further. Which I'm sure rings true for you as well, so let's make the best of this year and strive for greatness."
I’m Belinda Escalante and I’m a first generation student originally from California. I’ve had the opportunity to live in several states including Texas and Minnesota. I’ve been in Arizona for over 9 years and currently reside in Phoenix. As a non-traditional student with many years of work experience, I have worked with diverse populations. Most notably is as a Transition Technician working with special education students at Tempe Union High School District. I am a huge advocate of transition services to help bridge students with achievable benchmarks in order to reach their goals. I’m passionate about mental, education and prison reform. I’m a community organizer, activist and Vice President of the Macro Social Work Student Organization (MSWSN) – ASU club. I’m a currently a senior and will earn my social work bachelor’s degree in Spring 2017. I will pursue my master’s degree in social work in Summer 2017 specializing in policy and advocacy.