I went into foster care partly because of physical and emotional abuse, but mostly, because of poverty. My dad was in and out of jail. My mother was a single mother raising me and my three sisters. We lived in the car, slept on couches, and on people’s floors for a long time, until the day we entered foster care. Whenever something bad happened to my family, my parents would blame me. I felt that I was a burden, and I was always anxious. But I can’t say that I was a victim of my parents’ abuse without acknowledging that they too were victims of a society they didn’t feel accepted in.
School was always an escape for me. My teachers were like my parents, my peers were like brothers and sisters, and school became the family I had always wanted. It helped me heal from the hurt of parents who did not love me – spiritually and emotionally.
When I started in Community College, I did not know about Pivotal. The county moved me to Stockton, and I was scrounging to get by, using the food pantry and just trying to find any resources that I had available, but it was very difficult. I was struggling with my mental health, I was failing some classes, and at one point, I was ready to give up. I thought I’d just go do some gig economy work, become a Door Dasher and not finish school. Then the pandemic hit, and things got even worse.
In spite of it all, something in me knew that finishing college was critical to my success. I needed to finish what I had started. So, I put my head down, got to work, and finished Community College. Eventually I transferred to San Jose State University and that was when my social worker connected me to Pivotal. I applied and received their scholarship which made a huge difference in my life. In addition to the financial support, I was assigned a Pivotal coach who helped me navigate my college journey and provided me with the resources, mentorship, and moral support I needed to cross the finish line and get my bachelor’s degree. With their support, I was able to finish my classes with very good grades and develop real relationships with my professors, relationships that I hold to this day.
I also attended Pivotal workshops to learn how to manage my finances, go to job interviews, and have informational interviews with people working in the areas I was interested in so I could learn about what their career path had been like.
I’ve interviewed foster youth for my podcast and the difference between their experience and mine is enormous. I graduated from college with virtually no debt and Pivotal helped me learn how to manage my finances in a way that doesn’t put me out but helps me to practice restraint and save for the future. The financial support I got from Pivotal was important but the knowledge they bestowed on me was truly priceless.
My Pivotal coach always checked in on me when I needed resources, and they were also there for moral support. When I felt like I couldn’t finish and needed to drop a class, my coach was there to remind me that dropping a class would mean I couldn’t’ finish in time and that my education would be drawn out for another semester. They were just there for me, encouraging me and being there to confide in if I had conflicts with my professors or in my personal life. I’m just grateful to have had them in my life.
Having the support of Pivotal was emotionally nourishing, especially since I grew up in the system and I didn’t feel nourished at all. I felt like no one was on my side and expectations of me were very low. Pivotal looked at me. They said ‘hey, we believe in you. We know your potential.” And they grabbed me by the shoulders and threw me forward and said “Go get ‘em. We know what you’re capable of and you have a bright future ahead.” And I just really leaned into that belief in me. I crossed the finish line and got my bachelor’s degree.
Today, I’m married. I’m working with an organization in San Francisco because my degree in political science sparked my interest in how community-based organizations can help to deliver public good in partnership with government. I’m helping my wife pursue her bachelor's at UC Berkeley. I’m also considering pursuing a master’s in public policy as well as a degree in law and am researching what that involves and what scores I’ll need for the LSATs and the GREs to qualify.
I practice self-care, self-love, and let myself know that as cliché as it might sound, everything that’s happened to me, happened for a reason. It helped show me the importance of just loving yourself and not buying into that negative noise on the outside. Now, I want to share this gratitude by helping my sisters, my family, and others in my community. Eight-year-old Anjru would have wanted someone who was there for him, who believed in him and supported him, who hugged him at night, and I feel like 23-year-old Anjru is a really great role model to 8-year-old Anjru.
Because of the way the Pivotal program is structured, providing mentorship and opportunities year-long, it really allows students to build themselves up and become productive adults. They’re providing youth with the mentorship, the resources, the support that they need to succeed, especially in a system that may have provided all those things but takes them away at 18 when they transition out.
Two of my sisters are still in Pivotal’s programs and I’m so glad that they have the same support I had, coaches who believe in what they can accomplish, and support and resources when they need them. Pivotal is helping my family break the cycles of poverty and abuse in our family and for that I am truly grateful. Without Pivotal, I wouldn’t have become the person that I’ve always wanted to be, that I’m continually pursuing. I’m growing. I’m happy. I’m content.