Rhonda and Ruett Foster have devoted their lives to violence prevention. In 1997, their 7-year-old son, Evan, was killed by errant bullets when he was sitting in their car at a park in Inglewood, California. In the aftermath of the gang-related shooting, the Fosters appealed to the perpetrators to choose peace over violence and to the community to choose love over retaliation. For more than 17 years, the Fosters have continued this mission, working with juvenile offenders and community members to save young lives. After Evan’s death, the Fosters created a foundation in his name and began reaching out to incarcerated youth in detention centers and juvenile facilities throughout California. The Fosters speak around the country about addressing the root causes of violence and work with faith and civic groups as well as police departments to bolster gang prevention and youth development programs. At Pitzer, recipients of the Marilyn Chapin Massey Endowed Scholarship are referred to as “Evan Foster Scholars” in honor of the Fosters’ late son.
Ruett Foster is the senior pastor of the Community Bible Church of Culver City, which partners with local police to provide empowerment programs for first-time youth offenders. Rhonda Foster works with the nonprofit Community Build, Inc. as a case manager in gang prevention for the City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development program. She is also on the board of Women Against Gun Violence.
“They have lived their lives, day in and day out, exemplifying paramount Pitzer values—building community, offering service and being a force for change,” said Pitzer Professor Emerita of Sociology Ann Stromberg, who, along with Professor of Anthropology Sheryl Miller, nominated the Fosters for the DAA award.
“I am tremendously honored to have been recognized by my Pitzer College family in this manner and to have been nominated by two of my former professors who made an indelible mark of love upon my heart,” Rhonda Foster said. Ruett Foster described his time at Pitzer as a pivotal life experience. “I firmly believe that the multiplicity of diverse human experiences I encountered at Pitzer, coupled with a stellar education, were the agents that helped to form me into the person I am today,” he said. “I am deeply humbled and honored to be recognized by Pitzer College for my work in violence prevention and restorative justice.”
The Fosters’ work has been honored by many organizations. KCET and Union Bank named them 2011 Local Heroes and they received the inaugural Changing Lives Award from the inmates of the Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility in 2007. The Central City Association of Los Angeles dubbed them 2003 Treasures of Los Angeles and they received the 2001 Humanitarian Award from the Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility. They were chosen as Inspirational Torch Bearers for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Rhonda Foster majored in psychology and Ruett Foster majored in dance at Pitzer College.
“There can be no greater models of social responsibility than these two outstanding Pitzer graduates,” Professor Miller said. “They make the world a better place.”