By: McArthur H., Pivotal Alumnus
PUTTING ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER
“In my darkest moments, Pivotal has given me a sense of belonging. They are the family that I never had.”
When I met Pivotal, I was later on in my life, and in my third attempt to pursue a college degree. Despite the challenges I’d faced as a foster youth, I promised myself one thing: That no matter what, I’d get myself to a 4- year university. It was a tough time for me, though. Over the years, I’d suppressed many memories that were now resurfacing, and I was also trying to figure out my identity as a young person from foster care.
I enrolled at San Jose City College, where I began meeting people who would change my life. One of those people was a coach from Pivotal. From the start, she was receptive to my needs and truly listened to what I wanted to achieve in my life. Especially as an older student, sometimes it felt like I didn’t belong with the other college students. But the more Pivotal staff I met, the more I felt supported and cared for. Pivotal became my family and helped me build the resilience I needed to take the next steps to success.
I was accepted into Columbia University as a transfer student from San Jose City College and was ready to move back east, but Pivotal reminded me that it was important to have a strong and local support system to get through school. So instead, I made the best decision of my life and enrolled at UC Berkeley. I wanted to change the world for people like me, and at UC Berkeley, I did.
I created two new programs at UC Berkeley, NavCal and Nav2Cal. These programs help non-traditional students like me navigate the academic system at UC Berkeley. Before these programs, non-traditional students were not a "main priority" on the university’s radar. I led efforts to recruit more students with backgrounds like mine, who met the admission requirements but would never have applied because they just didn’t feel like they’d belong. Now the NavCal and Nav2Cal programs help non-traditional students gain access to the highest levels of education and make sure they thrive when they get there.
When I think about how resilient I’ve had to be in my life, I’m amazed at what I’ve accomplished. Resilience is about putting one foot in front of the other even when the answers aren’t there. For us foster youth who have already been at the bottom, there’s no way to go but up.