As the community liaison officer with College of the Canyons’ Public Information Office since November 2006, Jasmine Foster has a long list of official duties.
But her volunteer spirit extends far beyond her regular job, contributing untold hours to nonprofit groups in all corners of the Santa Clarita Valley, without expecting anything in return, except maybe a “thank you.”
And for almost a decade and a half, Foster has done it all as a single mom raising three now-grown sons.
Those are just a few reasons why Jasmine Foster is KHTS’s latest Santa Clarita Unsung Hero, brought to you by Mercedes-Benz of Valencia.
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Jazz/pop trumpet star Chris Botti is flanked by Brigette Loden (left) of Providence Holy Cross and Jasmine Foster (right) of College of the Canyons at the meet-and-greet fundraiser following his concert at the Performing Arts Center in August 2012.
Foster has played key roles in creating and/or promoting fundraisers and other events for the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center; Single Mothers’ Outreach; the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital Foundation; the SCV Chamber of Commerce and the SCV Latino Chamber of Commerce; various city of Santa Clarita expos; the MF [Michael Hoefflin?] Foundation; the Wm. S. Hart Union High School District; the Sulphur Springs School District; and Habitat for Humanity/SCV Homes for Heroes.
That’s all in what she calls her “spare time,” when she’s not at her day job working on various creative marketing, public relations and/or advertising projects and events for both College of the Canyons campuses.
Those range from capital campaigns like one to raise funds for COC’s Culinary Arts program to the Silver Spur Awards to the “Dancing With Our Stars” competition and the “Rock the Rhythm, Beat the Odds” world record attempt, both among several other events designed to benefit the K-12 Arts & Entertainment Outreach Program at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center.
Foster also works on myriad Performing Arts Center events including the annual season Opening Gala, artist and Chancellor’s Circle meet-and-greets (more fundraising for the K-12 program); numerous women’s conferences; cultural outreach to Hispanic and Asian communities; working with COC’s Student Services, Career Center and Financial Aid departments; the International Students Advisory Committee; Humanities and Media Entertainment Arts departments; planning and economic development; Fast Track training and more.
Jasmine Foster and Bill Cloyd Jr. worked together on fundraising for COC’s Silver Spur event in 2011.
“One of the greatest things about my job, is that I go in everyday thinking I’m going to be doing one thing, and my entire day can change within 15 minutes,” she told AM 1220 KHTS’s Jason Endicott in an on-the-air interview Friday, March 15, 2013. “That’s one of the wonderful things. It’s never routine, it’s never mundane, it’s always busy and exciting.
“As a community liaison, I like to think of myself as the person that brings the college to the community, to the people that can’t come to the college,” she said. “They have so many wonderful things going on, and what a great story to tell, whether it’s veteran students, re-entry students (or) our regular enrollment, which is about 24,000 students right now. Summer programs, winter programs, community educational programs – there’s something for everybody….I was not aware of all the wonderful things that the College of the Canyons had to offer to the community at large until I started looking at it when the boys were getting a little closer to that point. I was just amazed.”
For Foster, it’s always been family first; everything has come after, especially since her three sons were born in the early ‘90s (she married in 1985 but the marriage ended 16 years later in 2001).
“I raised three boys as a single mom for the past 14 years and I am very proud of who they are,” she said. “Two of the boys (Eric, 21, and Gregg, 23) attend California Lutheran University and one (Hayden, 22) works full time at Princess Cruises.”
Putting family first goes back to Foster’s own childhood in suburban New Rochelle, N.Y., as she told Endicott.
“I have two sisters, an older and a younger, so I’m the middle child,” said Foster, whose maiden name is Napoli. “Italian family, big cultural upbringing. And Italian was my first language; I did not speak English. No English was spoken in the household, and in those days – now I’m aging myself – there were no special programs. You were put in the classroom and you learned to speak English.”
Foster attended Catholic schools through 12th grade, including an all-girls high school. “When I went to college, it was a real shocker to get into class and find a room full of men in the same class with me,” she said. “I graduated (from IONA College with a BA in Modern Languages and a minor in international relations), and had a love interest in California, so I moved to California. Sight unseen, came here (in 1982), got married.”
Foster may have followed her heart to Southern California and Santa Clarita, but she also longed for the white, white snows of home, until she eventually got over the culture shock.
“I remember buying my first Christmas tree in 95-degree weather and calling my mom and saying, ‘Mom, it’s 95 degrees here, and I just have a Christmas tree on the top of my car!’” Foster said. “It was very different. But I loved it, and once you start a family here and you get engrossed in the environment and the culture of it all, and you become involved in the community… I loved it.
It is my home. I’ve spent more time here than my 21 years in New York.”
Jasmine Foster helped celebrate the 5th anniversary of College of the Canyons’ Canyon Country Campus in fall 2012.
It’s not surprising that Foster’s career as a volunteer goes back to her boys’ elementary school years. “In an effort to stay close to them from the very start of their school years I volunteered at the Sulphur Springs School for more than six years until they all graduated and moved on to the Hart School District,” she wrote in an email.
KHTS co-owner Jeri Seratti-Goldman, who nominated Foster for this Santa Clarita Unsung Hero honor, met her even before that, when their kids attended the same pre-school almost 20 years ago. Goldman found a kindred spirit in Foster. They’ve been co-conspirators on behalf of all children in our community ever since.
“We all raised our kids together (at Sulphur Springs),” Foster told Endicott. “They didn’t have computers for all the kids in the schools. One day, we just sat down and thought, ‘We can do this. We can create a fundraising event and get these computers in the classroom.’ And under the very wise and wonderful direction of a lady named Sandra Smith – who, by the way, now is involved with the K-12 Arts Education program at the college, after her retirement – we created a great first Mustang Roundup and made a lot of money. We were able to put computers in the schools for all the kids. And that continues today.
“From that, we created other smaller events,” Foster said. “It’s amazing what you can do if you just do a little brainstorming with some of the parents and the friends that are out there. Great things come of conversations.”
“In the last several years, even though she works at COC, she gives back hundreds of hours to COC,” Seratti-Goldman said. “I’ve worked with Jasmine on the K-12 program. We’ve gone out and, I think, created miracles in the community with different things. And most recently, the SCV Habitat for Heroes project, which is a program under Habitat for Humanity Santa Clarita-San Fernando valleys, where Jasmine’s been out with us building and painting and pulling weeds and doing all different kinds of things on the weekend. So, she’s very special. She’s one of my closest friends. I’m thrilled to be able to introduce her (as a Santa Clarita Unsung Hero). She fought this giddiness and put (this interview) off for a couple of weeks.
“This has been 15-plus years of working,” Seratti-Goldman said. “You’ve got those people in the community you can call, and with one phone call, we create things…I remember calling Jasmine, she was one of my first phone calls, where we had a homeless vet, and Jasmine got on it and within an hour I had clothes and toiletries and everything I needed. So, we love you, Jasmine. We’ve very proud of you. Thanks for doing this.”
Jasmine Foster introduces teen star Tyler Posey to REMO founder Remo Belli at “Rock the Rhythm, Beat the Odds” at College of the Canyons’ Cougar Stadium on May 17, 2012.
As is characteristic of Santa Clarita’s Unsung Heroes, Foster is used to working behind the scenes serving others, not being in the spotlight herself, and found it a tad uncomfortable.
“I don’t deserve all this,” she said.
“Of course you do,” Seratti-Goldman said.
“I am humbled,” Foster said.
During the on-air interview, Endicott and Foster also talked about how she met COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook and came to work at COC; the local charities nearest and dearest to her (the SCV Senior Center and SCV Habitat for Heroes, among them); and the people who most inspired her as a young woman, then later as a working mom (listen to or watch the interview to find out who they are).
So even when Foster puts family first, she still has lots of energy or work and volunteering. That’s just the way she’s wired.
“It’s true, I’m very busy, I have a real high energy level,” Foster said. “But I think there’s so much to be done, and so much help that’s needed in every avenue, regardless of the organization. There are so many great causes in this community. I really wanted to give back because I feel very blessed in many times, and very fortunate.
“I also wanted to be able to raise the boys in a way that they would understand the importance of understanding your blessings, being thankful for them, but understanding that there’s always time to help somebody else,” she said. “And it doesn’t have to be a giant thing. It’s just whatever you can do, you should. Let’s face it, we’re not going to sleep 15 hours a day. We have full-time jobs. But even in my daily work, as I travel around the community and talk to different people, you never know where the conversation’s going to go. And there could be just one little thing that someone tells you, and in the back of your mind you know how you can help that person, or you know someone that can help that person, if they’re looking for it.
“So, it’s not that I really think about the hours. It just comes naturally to me,” she said. “It’s not to be boastful about that. It is a very cultural, Italian thing – family, community, be involved, do what you can. So it just feels good to me, and I’ve been blessed to meet the people I’ve met along the way.
“But I have to tell you, I think my three greatest accomplishments – they call me ‘Mom.’” Foster said.
Watch the video of Jasmine Foster’s complete interview with AM-1220 KHTS afternoon drive air personality Jason Endicott on Friday, March 15, 2013, and learn more about this Santa Clarita Unsung Hero’s good deeds. You can also download the audio podcast.
Read more of KHTS’s Santa Clarita Unsung Heroes features brought to you by Mercedes-Benz of Valencia.
Mercedes-Benz of Valencia is proud to be part of the Santa Clarita Valley, not only giving you the superior customer service you deserve, but also giving back to our community by supporting our schools, sports teams, Sheriff’s Station and nonprofit organizations. Now, Mercedes-Benz of Valencia and KHTS have teamed up to present “Santa Clarita’s Unsung Heroes,” a special feature spotlighting local residents who make a difference in our valley. With new contributions also comes a new Mercedes management team. Visit Mercedes-Benz of Valencia today.
Photos: Courtesy Jasmine Foster.