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Staff Spotlight - Laura Phelps

For me, it’s the little wins. It's not just looking at the big picture. When one of my students texts me, “I got my essay turned in on time” or “I’m getting an A in Math!” - that’s a win. 

I celebrate the little wins because I know what it is to “lose a kid”. I recently found out that one of the young people I work with is incarcerated. He was unhoused for a while. It’s just terrible especially when you’ve worked hard to give them the tools to be successful, but they still end up on the wrong path.  

But I...

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Staff Spotlight - Trinh Tong

I’ve worked at a lot of places but I especially enjoy being a part of the Pivotal family for its unique culture of positivity & inclusivity – you know you can be your authentic self and still get the job done.

I graduated from San Jose State University with a bachelor’s degree in social work last year. I knew right away that having hands-on experience was super important. I joined Pivotal as an intern coach supporting high school-aged foster youth with their academics...
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Young Professional's Conference 2022

On Saturday, March 26, we invited our Pivotal post-secondary scholars to join us for a day of collaboration, learning, and conversation at the 2022 Young Professional’s Conference. Although we hosted some small in-person events last year, this was the first major activity we’ve been able to host in-person since the start of the pandemic and we were so thrilled to be able to finally see students, staff, and volunteers face-to-face!

The conference provided students with an...

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Thick Invisible Ice Vickeys Story

Thick, Invisible Ice


“I grew up in a small town where all trees are cut down to warm every household and school. I grew up in a small town where the electricity goes out regularly. A place where only one television channel exists, and the internet is as exotic as the dinosaur. 

Just beyond the river, bordering where I grew up, lies another country where everything is opposite to my little town. Whenever the electricity went out, we gazed through to the other side where the streets were lit. We...

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The 5:30 A.M. Wake Up Call

       By Laura Phelps, Pivotal High School Coach  


As a high schooler, getting to school by 8 a.m. is typically a bit of a challenge. You can imagine how surprised I was when one of the students I coach told me she was hoping to join the Link Crew, which meant she’d have to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to get to school by 7:00 a.m. While I’m always supportive of extracurricular activities, I knew she was already facing a demanding academic year. I was...

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Pivotal Success Skills - Helping Scholars Reflect on Who They Are & Who They Want to Be

What skills do foster youth need to be successful? That’s what a team of experts at Pivotal set out to determine when they created our new Success Skills tool. The tool helps students discover important traits and behaviors about themselves while bringing to light what areas they need to work on to become successful and thrive. The group landed on five key skills: Self-awarenessCommunication & Self Advocacy...

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Saying Farewell and Thank You to Board Member, Dr. David Lopez

After 14 years serving on the Pivotal board, Dr. David Lopez is stepping down from the position. We caught up with him to reflect on his many years of service and what he’s most proud of.

What drew you to become a Pivotal board member? Why is the Pivotal mission important to you?

I’ve always been dedicated to the education and support of students who are marginalized and who struggle with challenges because of the inequities in our system. I realized that in many cases, foster...

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Extended Foster Care Helps, But Foster Youth Need More Educational Support

By Elise Cutini, Chief Executive Officer, Pivotal  

An abridged version of this op-ed appeared in the Mercury News.

Nearly a decade ago, the AB12 Extended Foster Care Program was put into effect in California. The goal of the program, which allows eligible youth to stay in foster care until age 21, was to provide these young people with the tools necessary to be self-sufficient and socially connected. This was a huge step in the right direction, but 10 years later, two questions...

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Pivotal Scholar Jaskirat Finds her Own Path

By Maria Walters, Sr. Manager of Grants and Communications

Pivotal scholar Jaskirat always imagined going to a 4-year university and becoming a pediatrician. She wanted to help people and give back to her community. When she was accepted to U.C. Davis and received the Pivotal Scholarship it was literally a dream come true. Jaskirat had a vision of what college would be – living in the dorms, meeting new people, and immersing herself in the college experience.

But when she arrived at...

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Zack: From Student to Peer Leader

When Zack started with Pivotal’s STEM program many years ago, he quickly discovered that he had a knack for programming and problem solving. He soon became a peer leader, working with other students to help them troubleshoot problems and eventually teaching workshops on his own. Today, Zack runs his own small business, teaching elementary school students how to code and make games. He talks about his Pivotal...

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Stepping Up to a New School Year - A Message from Pivotal CEO, Elise Cutini

As a new school year starts, I find myself not only reflecting on the past year but wondering just what this new year will bring. I’m so incredibly proud of everything we accomplished last year during a pandemic. For over 30 years, our organization has focused on the importance of one-on-one, face-to-face interactions with our students and so many of our coaching and enrichment programs are built on the idea that we should meet students where they are and be integrated into the...

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Internship Collage 2021

Summer 2021 - Interns with Impact

Our goal at Pivotal is to help our students thrive – in life, school and work. We want to give them all the tools they need to become self-sufficient and that includes helping them find the career of their dreams. Pivotal’s Summer Internship Program is one way we help them along their path to success. Interns get real-world experience in the career they’re interested...

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