Hope For A Long Forgotten Cohort

Andy (J.D.’73) and Andrea (J.D.’76) Diamond with UH President Renu Khator
Andy (J.D.’73) and Andrea (J.D.’76) Diamond with UH President Renu Khator

Every year; practically, every month, we hear heartwarming stories about university benefactors coming to the aid of students in need. Then, there’s Andy (J.D.’73) and Andrea (J.D.’76) Diamond’s story.

The Diamond’s dream was to provide some of our state’s most vulnerable young men and women the same opportunities all UH students deserve—guidance for academic success, training for a promising career, and an opportunity for a fulfilling life of responsible citizenship.

“We want to create hope,” said Andy Diamond, a native of Port Arthur and graduate of the UH Law Center (UHLC). “Our goal is for every child, aging out of foster care, who wants to help themselves, will have an opportunity to do so.”

The idea for the Diamond’s gift came from a close friend who established similar program for underserved students at the University of Michigan. The Diamonds were so impressed with the program that they became active mentors. Searching for a significant way to give back to their own community, the Diamonds contacted their alma mater to create the first program of its kind in Texas. The Diamond Family Scholars Program, supported by the Diamond’s $17 million gift, will be used to offer financial, academic, mentoring and other support for students aging out of the foster care system. “This is a special population of students,” said Richard Walker, vice president for student affairs and enrollment services. “We want to make sure these students stay in school and that we are providing the attention they need.”

More than 23,000 youth per year nationally age out of the foster care system when they turn 18, according to the National Foster Youth Institute. Experts say few have the outside support, both financial and emotional, crucial to college success. Between 60 and 100 UH students self-identify as graduates of the foster care system every year. The group has a current four-year graduation rate of 37 percent; the program has targeted a graduation rate of 60 percent after the first four years, with a long-term goal of 80 percent.

Andrea Diamond, a Houston native and graduate of the UHLC practiced law in Houston, said she and her husband ask only that Diamond Family Scholars pay it forward in the future. “Sometime down the road, give another person in need hope and opportunity.”

The Diamond Family Scholars Program will be housed in the University’s Urban Experience Program (UEP) under the leadership of UEP director Raven Jones, Ph.D., and will help students tap all established resources, using the endowment to fill the gaps.

Eloise Brice, vice president for University Advancement, said the gift will help the University serve all students. “The Diamond Family Scholars Program will allow us to help these students who are very capable, but sometimes hit roadblocks,” she said. “This gift can remove those roadblocks.”