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Meet Davina Banner

Meet Davina

By Davina Lopez
Pivotal Scholar

I have been part of the Pivotal community since 2017, when it was Teen Force. Like most people, I’ve faced my share of hardships as well as victories.  There were times when I felt no hope for my future, convinced I wouldn’t be able to escape the statistics of being a foster youth.

For so long, I’d heard that a foster youth’s chances of graduating high school, let alone college, and finding a successful career were slim to none. But...

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TAY Summit - Pivotal Scholars Pay it Forward

On Wednesday, August 3, 2022 Pivotal was proud to partner with San Mateo County Children and Family Services Independent Living Program and Central Labor Council Partnership to host the 16th Annual TAY (Transition Aged Youth) Summit.

The day provided an opportunity for young people from foster care to learn from and meaningfully connect with other current and former foster youth. Hosted at Beresford Park, the event included a fabulous picnic, outdoor recreational activities, and...

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Summer Challenge 2022

Every summer, we throw down the gauntlet for our high school students as they take on the Pivotal Summer Challenge. Designed to give our young people an outlet for self-expression and learning over the summer, the Summer Challenge provides students with prompts for activities they can do to stay active, learn more about the world and get to know themselves and the people around them a little better. 

Students select activities from a list of 16 in four different categories: Connect,...

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The Pivotal Experience

What is your personal brand? What is it really like to do the job you’re dreaming of? 

These are a couple of the questions we posed to our post-secondary students this summer. To help them find answers, they participated in the Pivotal Experience – a summer program that helps students get an in-depth understanding of the careers they’re interested in, understand, and develop their personal brand, and create strong resumes. The four-week experience culminates in an...

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Pivotal CEO Elise Cutini Recognized with Regional Jefferson Award for Public Service

We’re so excited to announce that Pivotal’s CEO Elise Cutini has been awarded a regional Jefferson Award for Public Service for the life-changing impact she has made in the lives of foster youth! 

The Jefferson Awards recognize individuals who are making a difference in their communities. Elise has led Pivotal for over 16 years and we’re thrilled to see her hard work and dedication acknowledged and honored! Check out the video below. 



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Preparing Pivotal scholars for their summer internships - Thank you Macy's!

As the days get warmer and the school year comes to an end, many students are taking the summer to relax and unwind. But for our Pivotal scholars, June means it’s time to get ready for summer internships. Our foster youth scholars love the Pivotal Internship Program which gives them hands-on professional experience that aligns with their career goals and allows them to earn some money over the summer months. And it’s a win-win - Silicon Valley employers who choose a Pivotal intern...

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Staff Spotlight - Laura Phelps

For me, it’s the little wins. It's not just looking at the big picture. When one of my students texts me, “I got my essay turned in on time” or “I’m getting an A in Math!” - that’s a win. 

I celebrate the little wins because I know what it is to “lose a kid”. I recently found out that one of the young people I work with is incarcerated. He was unhoused for a while. It’s just terrible especially when you’ve worked hard to...

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Staff Spotlight - Trinh Tong

I’ve worked at a lot of places but I especially enjoy being a part of the Pivotal family for its unique culture of positivity & inclusivity – you know you can be your authentic self and still get the job done.

I graduated from San Jose State University with a bachelor’s degree in social work last year. I knew right away that having hands-on experience was super important. I joined Pivotal as an intern coach supporting high school-aged foster youth with their academics...
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Young Professional's Conference 2022

On Saturday, March 26, we invited our Pivotal post-secondary scholars to join us for a day of collaboration, learning, and conversation at the 2022 Young Professional’s Conference. Although we hosted some small in-person events last year, this was the first major activity we’ve been able to host in-person since the start of the pandemic and we were so thrilled to be able to finally see students, staff, and volunteers face-to-face!

The conference provided students with an...

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The 5:30 A.M. Wake Up Call

       By Laura Phelps, Pivotal High School Coach  


As a high schooler, getting to school by 8 a.m. is typically a bit of a challenge. You can imagine how surprised I was when one of the students I coach told me she was hoping to join the Link Crew, which meant she’d have to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to get to school by 7:00 a.m. While I’m always supportive of extracurricular activities, I knew she was already facing a demanding academic year. I was...

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Pivotal Success Skills - Helping Scholars Reflect on Who They Are & Who They Want to Be

What skills do foster youth need to be successful? That’s what a team of experts at Pivotal set out to determine when they created our new Success Skills tool. The tool helps students discover important traits and behaviors about themselves while bringing to light what areas they need to work on to become successful and thrive. The group landed on five key skills: Self-awarenessCommunication & Self Advocacy...

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Saying Farewell and Thank You to Board Member, Dr. David Lopez

After 14 years serving on the Pivotal board, Dr. David Lopez is stepping down from the position. We caught up with him to reflect on his many years of service and what he’s most proud of.

What drew you to become a Pivotal board member? Why is the Pivotal mission important to you?

I’ve always been dedicated to the education and support of students who are marginalized and who struggle with challenges because of the inequities in our system. I realized that in many cases, foster...

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