Vanessa Diffenbaugh, author of “The Language of Flowers” — Cuesta College’s 2013 Book of the Year — will be part of a panel of experts discussing how to help foster youth on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at the San Luis Obispo campus.

Stepping Up for Emancipating Foster Youth, sponsored by Cuesta’s Independent Living Program and Foster and Kinship Care Education, and the county Department of Social Services, will be held 1-2:30 p.m. in the Associated Students Auditorium, Room 5401, in the Student Center.

The forum considers community and college capacity to address foster youth after they turn 18 and “age out” of the foster care system, and the impact of a statewide initiative to increase their access to higher education.

“I’m hoping this forum will begin the conversation about what is being done in SLO County to meet the needs of foster youth,” said Katie Robinson, coordinator of the college’s Independent Living Program. “We would like the community to make a commitment to foster youth and brainstorm ways to meet the needs.”

The workshop will feature Tracy Schiro, the assistant director of the Department of Social Services, and two panel discussions.

The first will include Cuesta and Cal Poly students, all emancipated from foster care, followed by a group made up of Robinson, social worker Holly Prieto and Diffenbaugh, who will discuss Camellia Network, the organization she co-founded in 2010 to revolutionize how youth transitioning out of foster care are viewed and supported.

The workshop continues the theme of Diffenbaugh’s acclaimed 2011 novel about an emancipated 18-year-old foster youth whose gift for flowers helps her overcome a troubled past. From 5-7 p.m., the author will discuss “The Language of Flowers” followed by a reception and book signing at Cuesta’s Cultural and Performing Arts Center.

For more details about the workshop, call Elle San Juan at 781-1920 or e-mail

Jay Thompson | (805) 546-3100, ext. 2636 | Email: | Posted Feb. 12, 2013