Denisse loved school all her life. It was a sanctuary, a place to escape from the violence and anger she often faced at home. She loved school and was always eager to learn.

“School was my home where I had friends, and there weren’t any bad things. But one day, I got home just five mins late and he beat me with a belt and cables. It hurt to walk. I reported him through my school who then reported him to the police.”

Her dad was arrested but was soon out on bail and Denisse had to go back to living with him. One night, her dad woke her up at 2 a.m. and told her to pack her suitcase. He was sending her back to Mexico. Denisse was terrified. When they got to the airport, she waited for her chance to run away but he was watching her closely. Once she went through security, she was on her own and knew she couldn’t get on the plane.

“I started crying – I just didn’t know what to do. A janitor asked me what was wrong, and I told him what happened. He told me that in the US, there were programs to take care of kids who needed help.”

Denisse was able to escape from the airport, but she knew she couldn’t go back to her father. She was homeless but continued going to school, working hard to find her place in the world. Eventually, she was placed in foster care. A friend introduced her to Pivotal where she found a support system she could count on. Denisse started working with a Pivotal coach who helped her get an internship at Kaiser. The Pivotal team made sure she was well prepared by providing professional development skills like how to write a strong resume and interview for jobs. That's when she got a glimpse of the future she could make for herself.

This year, Denisse will graduate with honors from San Francisco State University and is planning to get her master’s degree.

“I want to be a mentor so I can tell others that they can do it. I don’t want any foster youth to hate themselves for their past. I want to be a little spark for them – so they can see that I could do it and so can they. The world is yours if you are willing to take it.”

Denisse is just one example of the incredible young people that we’re honored to work with. Every year, we support over 500 foster youth with 1:1 academic coaching, scholarships, paid internships, and financial literacy and professional development workshops.

If you'd like to support scholars just like Denisse, consider making a gift today!