Full Circle - Molly's Story
When Molly was growing up, her mom had serious mental health issues and struggled to take care of herself, much less her children. At 15, Molly was removed from her mom’s care and the court tracked down her father with the hopes that she could stay with him. He was a biker, affiliated with the Hell’s Angels, and was in rehab battling substance abuse issues. When they met at a restaurant, Molly hadn’t seen her dad in five years. He asked if she had any money. She paid for the meal with her earnings from her high school jobs. He took her to a liquor store after, and they stood behind the store as he drank the bottle she paid for. A few months later, after he left rehab, Molly’s dad died from an overdose of oxycodone.
Molly didn’t know what would happen next. She was placed with her aunt and uncle.
“I was so tired of not being heard. Going through the foster care system, you constantly feel out of place. I tried changing my image, coloring my hair, wearing black, trying to find some way to be seen or heard. But I also wanted to be true to myself. And use my experience to help others like me.”
At just 15, still dealing with the repercussions of the trauma she had experienced, she began to volunteer with California Youth Connection (CYC), hoping to help others find a voice. At 18, She worked at a group home with Star Programs and at Community Solutions, helping youth with mental health and wellness, and later interned for CYC and the Santa Clara County Director of DFCS. At the same time, her aunt and uncle stopped receiving funding to take care of her and told her she could no longer stay with them.
Molly was homeless until one of the CYC supporters took her in. She started taking classes at De Anza Community College, but eventually moved south to Gavilan College where she found Pivotal.
“Hardly any foster youth graduate college – I felt the weight of the odds stacked against me. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy for youth who don’t have family and community. If you’re surrounded by people who don’t believe in you, you don’t feel like you can succeed and so you don’t. But Pivotal helped me get through that and realize that college was something I could do.”
While at community college, Molly gave birth to her daughter. She wasn’t sure if she could juggle being a mom and going to college, but her coach helped her navigate managing the college experience and being a new mom, welcoming her to bring her daughter and her partner to Pivotal events, and even buying diapers and other supplies for the baby.
Molly struggled with medical challenges as well. She had an orbital tumor and was blind in one eye for a time. She wasn’t sure if she would ever regain her vision. But every time she wanted to give up, her Pivotal coach was there, supporting and encouraging her, connecting her to the resources she needed, and most importantly, reminding her that she was seen and valued, and that her voice was important. She eventually transferred to San Jose State University and with Pivotal’s help earned a bachelor's degree in Child & Adolescent Development with a focus in Family & Community.
Today, Molly works at Razing the Bar, a nonprofit founded by fellow Pivotal alum, Dontae Lartigue. She uses her story to inspire others, to let young people know that it is possible to break the cycle, connect with others, and find happiness.
“Sharing my story helps me connect with other people going through similar challenges. Lived experience is powerful. No degree or certification can compete with it. I found a way for my voice to be heard and I want to use it to make changes and help others who are going through their own struggles.”
Molly has been with her husband for 11 years and they have built a home with her daughter and stepson. They are happy and Molly is working hard to make sure her kids get all the opportunities in life that she and other foster youth didn’t have.