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This National Foster Care Month, Pivotal is proud to celebrate the relentless pursuit of our community of students who, despite the odds stacked against them, continue to persevere towards a limitless future. Their success in attending college isn’t just their own – it is a big part of their family’s success, and we are proud to support them through this arduous journey. Check out our National Foster Care Month page to learn about our other scholars. 


By Diana U., Pivotal Alumnus

When I was a kid, I loved school. I frequently made the honor roll, played soccer, and danced Folklorico. But things changed when I was about 10 years old. My parents got divorced, and my father was deported back to Mexico. I eventually lost contact with him and lost hope he was ever coming back, which influenced my life in many ways. I struggled to manage my emotions, my behavior changed, and so did my feelings toward school. I entered middle school with my love for school fading as my behavioral problems worsened. The adults in my life felt that they had exhausted all their options, and I was placed in the foster care system. 

I continued to act out in high school. I was kicked out of class more frequently, ditched school, and got suspended for fighting. On Fridays, I would take advantage of the freedom of the “off-campus lunch” and would run away to hang out on my own for the weekend.  

The courts were not happy with my weekend excursions, and one cold morning in January, I was abruptly awakened by the staff at the group home. The paperwork had been processed for me to transfer to an out-of-state placement. That plane ride to Aurora, Colorado, as a confused, unhappy 15-year-old changed my life forever. I spent the next seven months there until I was physically attacked by another resident and was sent back to California. When I came back to the Bay Area, I continued to change group homes and schools. I was running away, drinking heavily, and engaging in risky behaviors.  There was no end in sight.  

After my first drug overdose, my mom decided to close the case with the foster care system and send me to Mexico to live with my dad. But shortly after I arrived, my paternal grandmother died, which put a lot of strain on my dad, and he was no longer able to care for me. I moved schools again, continued to act out, and genuinely didn’t care enough to stop. I was back in the Bay Area, but my experience in Mexico had long-lasting effects on my mental health.   

Less than a year later, I was charged with two felonies, and spent Christmas and New Year’s in juvenile detention. Being locked up during the holidays did something to my spirit and that was when my mind finally started shifting. I began to care about my life because I knew I didn’t want to spend another second in jail.  

I was enrolled in an independent studies program where I only went to campus once a week. I found a part-time job at a department store, passed my drug tests, and complied with my probation terms. I was on track to graduate, and when I thought things could not get any better, my probation officer informed me that I was also on the way to successfully completing my probation! For the first time in a long time, I felt proud of myself.  

I was motivated to continue my studies, and I enrolled in community college, where I found my love of school rekindled. As I picked my classes and major and developed an academic plan, I felt empowered and excited for my future. I came to Pivotal through the foster care support services program at Evergreen Valley College. I expected the program to be temporary, like every other experience I had in the foster care system. But I soon realized that Pivotal was different. They consistently checked in on me, reminding me of enrollment/financial aid deadlines and motivating me to stay in school. I wasn’t eligible for a Pivotal scholarship because I was on academic probation. Still, they helped and supported me until I was in good academic standing and connected me to a wealth of helpful resources - individual coaching, summer internships, and community services. 

I expected to go to community college for two years, transfer to a decent local university, and get into enormous debt for an experience I would regret. What happened was that I struggled through the challenges of managing my own time and had periodic bouts of academic probation, but I was determined to succeed. I received an AA-T in Sociology from San Jose City College and a scholarship and acceptance into UC Berkeley three years later. 

Berkeley challenged me in ways I hadn’t experienced before. My critical thinking skills expanded, and I loved school again, feeling the same joy as that elementary school kid fascinated with learning new things. I graduated with a bachelor's in Sociology (with honors) in 2022, and I had no outstanding debt! I expected the worst and received more than I could’ve ever imagined.   

Now that I have graduated, I plan to take a year off before applying to graduate schools in the fall. In the meantime, I’m hoping to find a summer internship with Pivotal’s help, prepare for the GRE, and take some time to decide on the right program for me. I also want to travel a bit and take some much-needed R&R to get to know myself and what I’m passionate about. I am proud to be the first in my family to attend and graduate from a four-year degree program.  

Everyone deserves a second chance. In my experience, it’s rare for people who achieve remarkable things to get them right the first time, but with practice, consistency, and a little support, your chances of greatness increase with every step you take toward achieving your goals. 

My non-traditional educational experience left me with tremendous doubt that I’d ever succeed in higher education. But with Pivotal’s help, I learned to silence that doubt and achieve my goals. I accepted that I did belong, that my voice matters, and that I have the right to take up space in this world. For the longest time, I felt like I had no control over my life because someone else dictated where I lived and went to school, and what rules to follow. I’m not sure what comes next, but I feel ready to face it, armed with the skills and the knowledge to succeed in school and in life.