By Janelle Blakely, Director of Development

Incredible is how I describe Pivotal scholar, Monserrat. Inspired is how I felt after I sat down and talked with her.

Monserrat is very educational-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. Our staff quickly saw her drive and potential, as she attended a middle college program where she could finish 11th and 12th grade while completing college credits. After high school, she earned a Pivotal Scholarship to attend Skyline College. “Monserrat had the pieces already,” said Dominic Barragan, San Mateo County’s Emerging Scholars Manager. “All we had to do was to support her in putting them together.”

With the support and guidance she received from Pivotal, along with other programs such as The Independent Living Program (ILP), 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,” said Monserrat.  

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.

With only 3% of foster youth in the U.S. earning a bachelor’s degree, Monserrat is on her way to beating those odds. Her words of wisdom for her foster youth peers? “Don’t feel like you have to hurry, but don’t pause. It took a while to make education my #1 priority. The only competition I had was myself. Also, don’t pause just because it gets hard.”

We couldn’t be prouder of you, Monserrat!