Arizona trip 3

Promises2Kids is dedicated to creating a brighter future for foster children in San Diego County. From the moment they come into foster care and through to adulthood, Promises2Kids provides the hope, support and opportunities they need to change their lives for the better. Programs include Camp Connect, Guardian Scholars, Foster Funds and the A.B. and Jessie Polinsky Center. We are proud to support the positive impact of community partners as they continue putting their Hearts in action by seeking opportunities to make a difference in the world around us. At Southwest we believe community is more than a place – it’s at the heart of what brings us together.

It snows in Arizona, even in March. This was news to 13 foster youth Promises2Kids hosted on a college campus tour. They were juniors and seniors in high school, the perfect age to be considering their futures. They packed their sandals, sundresses, and t-shirts, and boarded a Southwest Airlines flight to visit Northern Arizona University, Arizona State University, and The University of Arizona to open their minds to the many possibilities.

Air travel is a rare experience for foster youth, and Southwest Airlines generously provided roundtrip airfare for all foster youth and chaperones. There were some understandable nerves arriving at the airport, but several admitted it was mostly excitement. Some learned what “carry on” means, humbly accepting Southwest Airlines’ assistance checking their oversized luggage. Once on the plane, all wanted window seats, but settled for taking turns. One student thought that distributing snacks was something airlines only did in the 1950s and was delighted when her snack arrived. Excitement built as they descended into Phoenix, ready to drive to Northern Arizona University.

Many felt a connection to Flagstaff and the surrounding picturesque nature. The snow and pine trees sparked ideas about the life-changing journey college can be. Some felt comfortable with Arizona State University’s sunshine and the on-campus palm trees gave a subtle reminder of home. Others enjoyed the stunning mountain skyline surrounding The University of Arizona in Tucson. As the gears started turning for students, their futures came into focus. This is the magic of a college tours trip; giving something tangible to look forward to after graduation.

Students toured each campus, hung out in the student unions, and sampled the social life. Each received a stipend for the campus stores to purchase a memento. Many went for hoodies proudly bearing university seals. One student insisted on buying stationery to write thank-yous to all who made this trip possible!

Since most had never left San Diego, let alone the state, it was important to get a sense of what a different locale offers. Most college students would agree that the time you spend on campus is only half the experience. Exploring your surroundings is the other half. So, extracurricular excursions were built into the trip, involving a jeep tour around Sedona National Park, a golf experience, a snowball fight and building snowmen.

This trip opened students’ eyes to various support systems, affirming that there are people, organizations, and institutions invested in their success. Inspired and excited about their futures, three students applied to the Guardian Scholars program that supports current and former foster youth pursuing their educational and career goals. Additionally, five students were paired with Youth2Youth Mentors. This peer-mentoring program hires Guardian Scholars with lived-experience as mentors to current foster youth.

This opportunity for foster youth would not have been possible without Southwest Airlines. As the Official Airline of Promises2Kids and a sponsor of their Dream On Concert Gala, Promises2Kids is grateful for their partnership and unwavering support over the years.

To learn more, donate or become a mentor, visit


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Esteban Villanueva