Growing up, Monica and her brother were severely abused physically, emotionally, and psychologically by their mother's partner. Monica found solace in books – she became a voracious reader, finding escape and peace between the pages. But fiction couldn’t protect her from the realities of her life. When she was 11 years old, after a traumatic beating that left her brother black and blue over half his body, Monica knew she had to seek help. She and her brother ran away, Child Protective Services was called, and they were both placed into foster care. 

Sara F. Painting for newsletter left space

“In high school I read a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.” I kept coming back to that. I wanted to break the chains of intergenerational trauma for my own children. That’s what kept me moving forward. We all experience hardship, but it hits harder for foster youth because of how past trauma impacts the development of our young neuropathways and nervous systems."  

Artist J. Duh focused on this quote and Monica’s determination to break the cycle and give her children a better life. Last year, Monica graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology from San Jose State University, a degree 25 years in the making. She plans to go to graduate school for clinical counseling psychology and become a licensed clinician working with others from the foster care system.  

 “I want to work with adults, particularly when they’re leaving care. It’s such an important moment in your life when things can go awry. You can be inspired, or you can fall into hopelessness and helplessness. It’s really a matter of the choices that we make every day.”