Losing their parents to drug and alcohol addiction motivated sisters Mary and Ruby to build healthy and fulfilling lives to help themselves and others.   

For Mary, the path to healing began with strengthening her own body and mind. Her father had been a track and field runner, but she didn’t see him in that light, as a strong athlete, because his addiction had stripped that away. It inspired her to become a runner herself, breaking track and field records in middle school as she discovered the power of her own physical strength.  

“I saw my parents let their health fail because of the choices they made with drugs and alcohol, and I knew I had to prevent that from happening to me and others,” says Mary. “When you’re lost in the system, your body and mind can get poisoned. I needed to understand how to help myself heal and want to share that message with others.” 

With Pivotal’s support, Mary was able to attend Fresno State for a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine. After graduation, she worked with the USA Olympic wrestling, rugby, and taekwondo teams for 15 years. Recently, she went back for an additional degree in MRI technology.  

“Working on your physical strength and fitness can help overcome the mental stress and despair you feel as a foster youth. Ensuring the body that you are in is healthy really helps you tackle the rest of it and work on taking care of yourself and your mental health.” 

Ruby also searched for an outlet and found it in fashion and design, starting out designing doll’s clothes. “My grandma helped raise me before she died and she inspired me to follow my passion for design,” says Ruby. “She told me that ‘you can’t buy class with money’ and helped me understand that fashion was accessible to me, even if I was shopping on the sales rack or finding new ways to style what was already in my closet.” 

Mary and Ruby
Pictured: Sisters Mary and Ruby re-unite at Santa Clara University while setting up the Foster Youth Museum for Pivotal Connect 2023.

Ruby’s passion led her to a BFA in Fashion Merchandising from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She worked in retail for many years and then moved into styling people for events, movies, and television shows, working on Disney and HBO productions.  

Ruby also finds ways to use her creative energy to give back; she provided early creative direction for the Foster Youth Museum in San Jose where she volunteered for over a decade. “In my line of work, most people haven’t ever met someone from foster care,” she says. Established in 2006 by current and former foster youth, the museum offers an eye-opening and intimate look into the experiences of foster care through displays of artifacts, art, photography, and digital media.  

"We're passionate about raising awareness about foster youth and their unique struggles," says Mary. “Awareness is a powerful tool.” 

Both sisters believe that none of that would have been possible without the team at Pivotal.  “We had Pivotal to help us thrive. It can get real lonely,” says Ruby. “Pivotal helped give us community and the knowledge that someone had our backs. Every young person should have that and I’m so glad Pivotal is making sure that other foster youth like us have that support.”