Diana Urias loved school when she was young, but when she was placed in foster care, she felt that love waning as she struggled with her mental health and began engaging in more and more risky behavior. After a drug overdose, several moves, and some time in juvenile detention, Diana realized she had to make a change. She began to focus on school again, eventually graduating and starting at community college where she found Pivotal. “I expected the program to be temporary, like every other experience I had in the foster care system,” says Diana, “But I soon realized that Pivotal was different. They consistently checked in on me, reminding me of enrollment/financial aid deadlines, and motivating me to stay in school.” 

Diana’s hard work paid off and she graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. You can read Diana’s story in her own words here in a post she wrote just after graduation.  

Today, Diana is a bright, effusive young woman who sees a world of possibilities ahead of her. We recently caught up with her to see what she’s been up to. After graduation, she moved to New York City to work on an MS in Nonprofit Management at the Columbia School of Professional Studies (SPS) and was recently elected to be the Program Representative within the SPS Student Government. In that role, she represents her program and acts as the voice of the department within the Student Government, bringing up any concerns or challenges that the students want to voice.  

Diana plans to graduate in May 2025 and even though she’s not been in our program recently, she credits Pivotal for many of the opportunities that got her where she is today. Her Pivotal internship with Santa Clara County’s Board of Supervisors led her to a year-long position working closely with Susan Ellenberg. “That was my first ‘big girl’ job – I had my own cubicle; I was making decent money for the first time in my life, and it was all because I started off as an intern!” 

Supervisor Ellenberg is a Columbia alum who wrote Diana a letter of recommendation when she applied to the program. Even though it’s the first time she’s been so far from home and on her own, Diana is loving her time in New York City. When she graduates, she wants to find a job in the nonprofit sector. Having a fresh start in a new city allowed her to determine her own path. She’s working on her own mental health and recovery, trying to make sense of the trauma in her past and going to therapy. “I moved thousands of miles away to do this. I'm not going to self-sabotage - this is the worst time to be reverting to old ways.” She loves the city, the people, and the new life she is building for herself.