Ashley Lekkerkerk and her second mother Julia Starkey. | Courtesy photo

A home away from home has taken on a new meaning for out-of-state students at Cal Poly.

Cal Poly’s Community Connections program will match out-of-state students with local sponsor families. It aims to give students a support system for their first year in a new state, Counseling and Guidance graduate coordinator Taylor Gregg said.

“Out-of-state students who come here have no roots, so having a support system is really important to the whole Cal Poly experience,” Gregg said.

Julia and Scott Starkey, who started Aware Awake Alive after their son Carson’s hazing-caused death in 2008, started the Community Connections program last year. Their son Hayden became involved in a similar program while away at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Lekkerkerk with Julia and Scott Starkey. | Courtesy photo

“The whole time he was there he had a sponsor family and being a parent, that was very helpful,” Starkey said. “Out-of-state students need a place to fall back on; they’re a long way from home and they need a safe place with friendly faces so they can get away from their academic surroundings from time to time and get in a home setting.”

The program offers opportunities for students to eat a home-cooked meal, explore their community and have a support system nearby.

Civil engineering freshman Veronika Krahe is planning on using the program.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know the area better, anchoring down and feeling more at home here,” Krahe said.

Next year, the program will start earlier so students can have a support system going into their first quarter.

For now, signups are still available for any out-of-state students who want a local sponsorship family.

Communication studies sophomore and student liaison for Community Connections Ashley Lekkerkerk was one of the first students to try the program last year.

“Just knowing that I had a home away from home was so amazing,” Lekkerkerk said.

Students can sign up for the program by contacting Gregg at

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