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Pivotal has helped hundreds of high school and college-aged foster youth discover their talents, explore career possibilities, and pursue their career dreams. Our students graduate from college at 10X the national foster youth average. Although each youth we serve has a different story of how they came to be in foster care. they all want the same thing:  career success and self-reliance. That's the Pivotal way. 



Seeing my whole family struggle made me think I don’t want to be struggling.


A story of resilience.

Monserrat is very education-oriented, a lover of learning and school. A first-generation college student, she will make her dreams a reality when she attends UC Santa Barbara this fall!

Her love of learning was passed down from her mom who always placed great value on education. Although Monserrat’s mom encouraged her kids to pursue higher education, the realities of making ends meet in the Bay Area made it tough. Her brother dropped out of high school his senior year, her sister graduated but started working immediately after, and her mom was trying to pursue a cosmetology degree while providing for her family. “Seeing my whole family struggle made me think I don’t want to be struggling. Education and what you’re learning in the classroom is the base to everything else you want to do. I knew I couldn’t let things distract me and had to stay focused on school,” Monserrat reflected.

When Monserrat was 15 years-old her mother passed away suddenly. It was her sophomore year during the holidays; she didn’t have family to turn to and entered the foster care system. Over the next three years, she moved schools frequently, a total of seven housing placements. Monserrat’s social worker connected her to Pivotal. 

With the support and guidance she received from Pivotal,  Monserrat was able to build confidence, make education her #1 priority, and set her sights on attending a four-year university. “With Pivotal, there was no judgment and I didn’t feel like I was being labeled as a victim,” explained Monserrat. “Even when I first met the staff, they didn’t have preconceived ideas about me as a foster youth. My coach always checked up on me and understood what was going on in my life and that I needed to take care of myself first,” she said.

Today, Monserrat’s incredible resilience and determination have led her to a leading university where she plans to study communications with a possible business angle. “I’m confident in myself and I know I can get good grades and do what I put my mind to,” she said with a smile.


I always wanted to be a doctor, and after my STEM internship, I'm sure it's what I want to do!


A career in medicine.

For as long as she can remember, Denisse has wanted to be a pediatrician. And as a biology major at San Francisco State, she’s well on her way.

Life hasn’t always been easy for Denisse. She endured many years of abuse before entering the foster care system. She kept her dreams alive, even though life constantly whittled away at them.

Things began to change in high school. A friend suggested she tag along to a Pivotal STEM workshop. Denisse didn’t know what to expect, but the self-described science buff dived right in. She learned coding, robotics, and website design, as well as professional development skills like how to write a strong resume and interview for a job. When she completed the STEM workshops, she received her very own laptop which came fully loaded with Microsoft Word, Powerpoint and Excel.

Denisse started working with a Pivotal coach who helped her get a summer internship at Kaiser. That's when she got a glimpse of her future.  She says, "I always wanted to be a doctor, and after my STEM internship, I'm sure it's what I want to do!"

Denisse is on her way to creating the life she wants for herself. Her first day of college was surreal. “I was so happy, I cried tears of joy,” she says. “I don’t know what I would have done without all the support from Pivotal. Sometimes you just need to think big!” 


I was completely on my own, and my Pivotal coach gave me the extra support that I needed to keep going.


A career in law.

With an associate's degree hanging on his wall and a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from California State University, Long Beach in the works, Latif is aiming for the real prize: a law degree.  Latif already knows a lot about the law for a college student But, his introduction didn’t happen in the classroom. It happened in a more personal way.

Not long ago, planning for his future felt impossible. Family conflict forced Latif to flee his native country, Ghana, at age 16. Alone and unprepared, he spent days in a California detention center. When relatives in New York refused to take him in, he entered foster care. Of his first two placements, Latif says simply, “They weren’t a match.”

In the beginning, he was behind in school and struggling to get by. Being far from home and getting used to a new culture made him feel isolated and confused. But he was determined, and with hard work, graduated from high school.

The real turning point came at De Anza College. Paired with a Pivotal coach, Latif finally found his stride. Together, they developed Latif’s educational plan and met regularly for step-by-step guidance that helped him earn his two-year degree.

“I was completely on my own, and my Pivotal coach gave me the extra support that I needed to keep going,” he says.  “I can’t even imagine graduating without that.”

Now he's working on a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice, and he's not looking back.  “The sky’s the limit,” he says confidently. “I wanted a better future for myself. And, I did it!”

Latif's coach, Nathan, says: 

When I met Latif, it was clear he already had a plan. I helped him connect to resources. We spent a lot of time going through websites and learning together. He was so focused on his future, he made my job easy!



A career in public policy.

Sarata plans to earn a master’s degree in Public Administration. For now, she's applying to the Peace Corps or thinking of working at a nonprofit that brings clean water to developing countries. 

She took advantage of our summer internship program which matched her to a fabulous role at Santa Clara County Water District. A highlight was taking on the role of director of high school interns. She also planned office events and even sat in on board meetings. “I learned how to communicate and network with professionals and I learned new skills," beams Sarata.  

Pivotal made sure that the internship was successful for everyone involved. For Sarata that meant providing her with proper business attire and coaching her on professional work habits. And, for her internship supervisors, Pivotal checked in regularly and coached them on the best ways to support foster youth interns. 

Sarata is ready for her next chapter. “Having Pivotal help me find an internship like this one paved the way for my future career,” she says. “There’s so much out there! In an internship like this, being able to evolve and learn was a life-changing experience.”

Having Pivotal help me find an internship like this one paved the way for my future career.


Pivotal's college scholarship helped me to stay focused on schoolwork and graduating on time.


A career in community advocacy.

Alicia always loved school. As a child, it was her happy place when the rest of her world seemed torn apart. Now, with her first diploma in hand – a B.A. in Sociology from San Francisco State University – she’s busy making plans to earn a second one – a master’s degree in social work.

From an early age, Alicia planned to go to college. But, figuring out how to pay for it was another matter.  Alicia got help applying for federal financial aid and received a Pivotal scholarship that helped cover her living expenses, like housing, food, and transportation. Alicia recalls, “Pivotal's scholarship let me stay focused on my education. Honestly, that was such a luxury!”

Alicia knows life’s challenges. Cycling through 13 foster homes in one year took a toll. “I was a traumatized little girl,” she recalls. But with the right supports in place, she bravely picked up the pieces. 

Now, armed with a college degree and unburdened with college debt, she looks ahead with confidence. She feels empowered to reach toward the future she envisions for herself. “It’s about knowing yourself,” she beams. “I’ve always wanted to be a social worker and work with kids. I want to let them know that I’ll be there for them!”

About her interactions with Alicia, Coach Arielle says:

Alicia is a great combination of wisdom and motivation. We connected instantly and quickly got down to work. She knew she wanted to go into social work and was really interested in what I do as a Pivotal coach. Alicia had a chance to shadow me as part of a school assignment. I thought I’d be doing all the teaching, but to be honest, I learned a lot from her too! 

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