Success means different things to different people. For some, it’s graduating from high school or landing a dream job. For others, it’s having the opportunity to build a stable family. Whatever our scholars define as success, Pivotal strives to get them there. And every time we check in with past scholars and see how far they’ve come, we know we’ve done our job. In our “Where Are They Now?” series, we’re catching up with four Pivotal Alumni to share their personal journeys to success.
Toni discovered Pivotal while she was looking for resources and peer support to assist her through undergraduate school. Now, she is an alumni of San Jose State University and UC Hastings College of the Law. She recently passed the California Bar Exam and strives to use her influence as a future attorney to be a catalyst for change.
When was your Pivotal pivot? When did things start to change for you?
Things started to change as I began to make connections with positive people and role models in college and beyond. I became more educated about the world and gained the knowledge necessary for change. Different people, places, cultures, traditions, and strong bonds with unexpected souls made me aspire to be a good human being above all other things.
What are you planning on doing next?
I plan on practicing law, and hopefully doing a fellowship in Washington D.C. I would love to work in politics or government, or a similar field that will allow me to advocate for change. The community has been my family and support at times, so I would love to take all I have gained and give back in the most effective ways I possibly can.
What's the one accomplishment that you're most proud of?
Breaking barriers! I'm proud of my law degree, but I am most proud of the wisdom I learned throughout that journey that has shown me so much greatness, value, and beauty all over this world. That’s what fuels my desire to advocate for, support, and protect my community and beyond.
When you think about your journey, is there a speed bump that you overcame along the way?
I had to learn to not let my challenges define me. I didn't want the loss of my mother and brother to absorb all of me. It didn’t happen easily or immediately, but in time I learned to carry them with me and use their energy for positivity and motivation. I know that would make them most proud, and doing that has brought me great peace.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Listen and learn as much as you can from everyone. Each and every single person has something to offer your mind. At the same time, don't give your time, talents, or treasures to those who do not appreciate it.
What's your favorite memory of working with Pivotal coaches or staff?
My favorite memory was being with Priya and Lany at my graduation. They brought me a gigantic bouquet of flowers and we took pictures. It made me feel special. I also very much enjoyed being on the panels to advocate for foster youth pursuing their education.
Who's your hero/role model?
I see my high school teacher, Mr. Jaime Richards, as a role model because I aligned my life by the values he instilled in me. He taught me many great life lessons that are priceless. When I was goin through a tough time, he advocated for me and taught me self love. He told me all the reasons why I would be successful and never doubted me. He is a very wise, kind man, and I am forever grateful to him.
What do you think people would be surprised to learn about the foster care experience?
Foster care is about the same as anyone entering it would think: it's rough because you aren't at home. However, the surprising part about it is the outpouring of love, support, and concern from different organizations and people in the community - the complete strangers. To me, that is one of the hidden treasures of life.
What is your favorite quote?
“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi
If you could share one thing with our supporters, what would it be?
Pivotal has changed the lives of many disadvantaged young people. Their work is greatly appreciated and needed. The staff I have worked with are still in my life today. Without them, the road would have been much rougher. At the times when I didn't have any support, they were there. Supporting Pivotal is supporting the future, and supporting the future is vital.