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Advice for the Holidays

Real life isn’t a Hallmark movie. For some the holidays can be very hard. Here is some advice from other students about how to deal with the holidays.

That no matter what your situation is we should be thankful for what you have and what you have accomplished.

– Irma, California

Take time to relax from schoolwork and stress. Family can be stressful, so make sure to take time for yourself.

– Isabeau, California

Don’t stress – you can make your own family and spend time with them. Holidays are supposed to be about spending time with people YOU chose to love not necessarily your family.

– Brandy, California

Make the best of it and celebrate even if it is just you. Cook your favorite dinner and make that special day all about you because we all deserve it. We need to take care of and be gentle to ourselves. Participate in free Christmas events with friends or the people you feel the best energy with. And if it’s just you, do what you love to do so you can enjoy every moment.

– Luzvianeth, California

Be present in the moment. Be mindful. Even if you’re not spending the holidays with families find a good friend or someone in your life you can call family and home.

– Cardajah, Alabama

Take the time to spend with the dearest people in your life. That’s what counts in life!

– Jacob, Alabama

Start a new fun tradition.

– Tarmaine, Alabama

We might not have a lot of family and or friends, but it important to celebrate the Holidays and to be positive and happy. The holidays are rough for most people, I have been there, but I promise it gets better. Bring the holiday cheer on in your heart!

– Delia, Arizona

Holidays can sometimes be difficult since not everyone has a family to spend them with, but try to join other people in there celebrations or start your own traditions with friends.

– Anna, Arizona

Family is overrated.

– Juliette, Arizona

Don’t spend your day alone. Go out with family or friends and have fun. Life is short, so don’t stress at home and doing nothing.

– Awet, Colorado

It’s hard and sometimes it feels lonely but being able to find something you like to do even if that is just relaxing and not focusing on school work is a good thing and don’t let yourself feel lonely

– Carliza, Colorado

Relax. Have fun with friends, hang out, go to a restaurant.

– Rachel, Colorado

Have fun, but don’t forget your responsibilities. Make sure you have some support. If you are a parent and a student, it could become totally overwhelming. Have the right people in your corner.

– Miracle, Maryland

Stay safe and spend time with important ones.

– Zaria, Maryland

Find some friends that you are really close to. Most of your peers don’t have a lot of kids or a huge family, so they won’t mind you spending holidays with them. Find holiday movies you enjoy and try to keep yourself surrounded with joyful spirits so you don’t get in a depressing mood.

– Destiny, Missouri

Be aware that the holidays can bring loneliness and depression but remember that even if you don’t have a healthy relationship with them, people still love you.

– Lilly, Missouri

Just be yourself and relax. It will be over before you know it. If you dont have a family to celebrate it with just be thankful you made it through another holiday.💜💜💜

– Akou, Missouri

Don’t put yourself down. Look around, there is always someone willing to invite you home with them.

– Kailey, MIssouri

Spend holidays with the people you love the most even if it is just friends!

– Alyssa, Missouri

If a friend asks you to join them at a family dinner, do it!

– Ranajah, Missouri

I know we all have family issues, busy schedules, or just don’t want to leave the house. But, go see your family, call them, or text. I didn’t see or talk my family for two years, and it affected me. When I started to talk to them again, I felt good inside.

– Nicole, Missouri

Celebrate it in some way shape or form. It helps to relax.

– Karen, Missouri

Relax and enjoy the time you have with your family/friends. Don’t stress about other people or other things. The most important thing during the holidays is to take a day to enjoy yourself. Once the day is over, you can get back to studying or doing any work you need to get done.

– Tykia, Missouri

I would say definitely go home and see your family if you are not able to find a friend to hang with. Never be lonely on the holidays.

– Brittnae, Missouri

Pick one place and go with it. I always try to please everyone, and go to as many gatherings as I’m invited to. Instead of pleasing anyone, I usually wind up pleasing no one, and feeling like I’m dining and dashing.

– Faith, Missouri

If you are like me and don’t have a family, or maybe just a couple of people, just be thankful for the people that you do have. Be thankful for the day, for the very breath you have. Be thankful for as far as you’ve come. When I look back in my life, I’ve come a long ways and I am so thankful for that. Just know you are never alone. Be in THAT moment and enjoy that MOMENT. It’s easy to dwell on the negative.

– Asia, North Carolina

Be around people you love and don’t let the drama or any problems come in the picture. Just spend time with the ones you love and enjoy yourself.

– Shyanne, North Carolina

Holidays do need to be big important events if that stresses you out. It can be just binging a show with your favorite snack.

– Robert, North Carolina

I advise not being alone. Generic but being alone on the holidays is always terrible. I would try hanging with friends or trying to see family if you’re able. Also maybe a secret Santa with some of your friends. That way you can give some gifts for Christmas.

– Amber, North Carolina

Gather some friends, dress up all festive, and spend quality time together.

– Lisa, North Carolina

You don’t always have to spend the holidays with blood relatives, you can always spend it with friends or people you made your family. You don’t have to be alone or sad. Find a way to spend these happy times with someone. You could even volunteer to spend it with people who are need; they are not only in need of food, water, shelter and warmth, but of comfort and love. For some people the holidays can be sad and lonely, but it doesn’t have to be.

– Erika, North Carolina

If you can’t spend the holidays with your family, like me, then spend time with your friends and their families. The holidays are really fun but can also be really sad, so try as much as possible to be around other people, and give thanks for the people we DO still have in our lives.

– Akela, New York

Make sure to put yourself first, if you need to take a break from your family despite it being any holiday, do it.

– Corali, New York

My advice for other students who are currently in foster care is that you are never alone. Sometimes you are just one phone call away from the people you love. And it doesn’t even matter if you don’t have a family to spend the holidays with, sometimes your friends can be your family.  If you are feeling sad, try to cheer yourself up, watch a Christmas movie on Netflix or treat yourself by doing or buying something you really like.

– Karina, New York

Find a local advocacy group that facilitates gatherings around the holidays. Spend time with those you love most!

– Cloe, Ohio

The holidays can be really hard, especially if you have no one. If you feel like you can’t be alone that day then try to pick up a shift at work (if it’s open) or go to the soup kitchen and volunteer. If anything just load on in Christmas movies and allow you to treat yourself to some sweets.

– Hayley, Ohio

Try and go home for the holidays and home is where you feel safe and loved. It doesn’t have to be biological.

– Brendy, Ohio

You should celebrate it the way you want, it shouldn’t be based off of how you see everyone else. As long as you’re happy that’s all that matters!

– Petria, Ohio

Don’t feel pressured to put yourself into debt for the holidays. Just enjoy your break and do what’s best for you always! School is hard, life is hard and everyone needs a break. That’s what holidays should be, a much needed break.

– Janice, Ohio


What do you do for Christmas?

Everyone celebrates Christmas differently. Some people spend time with their bio family, their foster family, or a significant other’s family. Some spend the holiday alone. Others make their own family. Here are how some of our students celebrate their holidays. How do you celebrate yours?


I usually see a movie with my best friend and Skype my sister.

– Brandy, California

I will cook a meal for my son and husband and we will open up the gifts we got for one another and just watch Christmas movies and spend the day together.

– Asia, North Carolina

I usually don’t celebrate Christmas.

– Evan, California

For Christmas I love going around the city to see the Christmas lights. I also take my daughter to the city’s Christmas tree lighting event and listen to Christmas music. This year I plan to make a tamale dinner. I plan to stay home with my daughter and watch movies as well as bake cookies for Santa Claus, so he doesn’t skip our home.

– Luzvianeth, California

We go to my godmother’s house, have breakfast, and open presents. Then we go to my boyfriend’s house.

– Kristianna, Idaho

For Christmas, I usually spend it with my son, who is 7 years old now. I enjoy watching him open his gifts. I love the joy and cheer it brings to him but it makes my heart smile seeing him so happy.

– Delia, Arizona

On Christmas, my boyfriend’s family usually invites me over and we all exchange gifts and spend time with each other. It is really awesome that they are so inclusive since I don’t have a family of my own.

– Anna, Arizona


We go to my godmother’s house, have breakfast, and open presents. Then we go to my boyfriend’s house.

– Denise, Arizona

Hangout with friends or call my mom and dad for three hours in Eritrea.

– Awet, Colorado

I will visit my foster parents because we will have dinner and do some fun things to do with their kids.

– Rachel, Colorado

I spend time with family. We have cinnamon rolls for breakfast and then open presents. We watch Christmas movies or a football game while eating Christmas cookies and drinking hot chocolate until Christmas dinner.

– Darranicka, Maryland

I spend time alone.

– Alexis, Missouri

We spend the time reflecting and setting new goals for the New Year. It normally isn’t focused on the gifts because it’s not much we can afford. But it’s nice to reminisce with my loved ones.

– Miracle, Maryland

I spend Christmas watching the Grinch and drinking eggnog.

– Destiny, Missouri

I spend Christmas with my foster family. My foster parents stopped decorating the Christmas tree because all their biological kids are adults now, so I stared the tradition of putting the Christmas tree up again. I’ve gotten close to Alexis, she is my foster parent’s granddaughter and she is only one year younger than me. We have been decorating the Christmas tree together for around 4 years now. She called me on Saturday to tell me that she is looking forward to decorating the tree with me when she comes back home from school for the holidays. I like Christmas, and I love spending time with my foster family

– Karina, New York

I work and celebrate with my family on a later day.

– Lilly, Missouri

I would like to light up my 3 feet little Christmas tree and watch Netflix and relax and eat some food this year.

– Akou, Missouri

I go to my close family friend’s house. I spend the night with them.

Kailey, Missouri

We walk around town and look at the lights. We do a list of what we are thankful for and burn it in the fireplace/outside in a pit.

– Nicole, Missouri

I stay at home by myself.  I have no family to spend my holidays with.

– Gabrielle, Missouri

On Christmas, I go to my grandma’s house and meet with my family. We exchange gifts and eat food. I also go to other people’s houses and just enjoy the positive energy everyone has.

– Tykia, Missouri

The holidays are really hard for me because they will never live up to the crystallized version I have in my head from my early childhood. Every year since my grandmother’s passing has been a train wreck.

– Faith, Missouri

It’s not about the presents but it’s about spending time with my family that I love. I’ve been in foster care for years and I’m finally old enough to move out with some family that I haven’t lived with since I was a kid and I’m just excited to spend the holidays with them.

– Shyanne, North Carolina

I spend time with my godmom, aunt, and friends.

– Trinity, North Carolina

I spend Christmas Eve with my boyfriend’s family and we exchange gifts to each other. The kids receive many gifts from everyone and then we enjoy dinner together. On Christmas morning my boyfriend, my son, and I go to my boyfriend’s parents’ house to open gifts. We will have a big breakfast together and watch the Christmas Story all day. On Christmas Eve, my boyfriend, son and I, will drive around and look at Christmas lights. We will watch Christmas movies, snuggle, and enjoy hot chocolate. Sometimes I find a few days around Christmas to spend time with my chosen family, which are people I call my family.

– Erika, North Carolina

Call my family then work out even more in the gym.

– Shawn, New York

I buy my cats stockings and open it for them for Christmas. Then I spend a little money for a couple things I want that I wrap and put under the tree. Then I watch my favorite Christmas movies and drink hot cocoa.

– Hayley, Ohio

I go to my last foster mom’s house and spend it with her and her girls.

– Brendy, Ohio

I never really spent it with my bio family. I always spent it in the foster house I was in or the group home.

– Olivia, Ohio

What should you do with your Pell Grant refund?

What is the Pell Grant?

The Pell Grant is a federal grant that helps low income students pay for college. This money is sent by the government to your school to pay for tuition and other costs (fees, housing, meal plan).  If there’s a balance left over, the school issues the student a Pell Grant refund. Some students get refunds of over $3000 in each semester.

What should you do with this money?

Manage your money wisely. Sit down and think about your budget. What do you need to buy this semester? What bills do you have to pay?

  1. Check your school account. Make sure you don’t owe the school any money. You don’t want to spend your whole refund and then discover that you owe money and can’t register for next semester.
  2. Buy books and school supplies.
  3. Put some money in savings.
  4. Pay some bills upfront. See if you can pay two month’s rent in advance. Or buy some extra phone cards so you’ll be able to keep your phone on for the rest of the semester.
  5. Treat yourself. Buy yourself something small or nice. Don’t go nuts.

Here’s what other students do with their refunds.

What do you do? Let us know in the comments.

I pay bills first- rent, phone, utilities, and then food and other necessities. I try to save as much as I can but it varies by month.

– Sera

I pay bills in advance. I’m in nursing school so sometimes I have to reduce my work hours during the semester.  I might not work for a week when a final is coming up. At least rent and bills are covered and I have peace of mind. I buy groceries, books, supplies, etc. Then I add money to a prepaid card for gas so I don’t waste it.

– Jessica

I paid my year rent in advance and saved the rest until my car died.

– Ashley

Rent- I pay my rent in chunks so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it. Then I bulk buy groceries and have a little left to do something fun.

– Ivis

I put half in savings and spend the rest.

– Kyra Smith

I pay for textbooks and supplies I need for school. I pay for anything necessary bills like my cell phone or a bus pass. I pay any debt that I have and then put the rest in savings so if I reach financial hardship during the semester, I’m able to use if I need to.

– Ollie

Pay my car insurance 6 months in advance.

– Hassan

Bills bills bills. Pay ahead what I can, get my car payment paid up as far ahead as I can.
– Trisha

I start with paying whatever bills I have. Then I buy stuff I need (transportation, food). Then I  spoil myself with some stuff that I want to buy.

– Jai Daisia

I spend most of the money on my car payments. What I don’t spend on my car payments, I usually buy food with.

– Kristin

I put it in my savings account.

– Christopher

I put at least $600 in saving, which helps a lot when an emergency happens!

– Daisy

I catch up on bills and buy household stuff. Then I treat my kids to Steak and Shake.

– Benickwa

I’m saving up so I can get a car.

– Jasmine

Save it and use as little as possible for food until the next semester.

– Bryttani

I pay student loans, credit cards, and bills.

– David

I use it for bills and save the rest for books next semester

– De’Angelo

I save as much as I can to give myself more “life chances” down the road whilst paying whatever expenses I have. I try to treat myself every now and then, but I’m focused on building for myself at the same time.

– Matthew

I put it into my savings account, and will use it for any unexpected expenses.

– Schuyler

Save some, spend some, and share some to help the community.

– Jorge

Buy snacks for school and save the rest.

– David Ganz

Usually buy big items that I couldn’t before. Like tires, or getting new brakes and rotors.

– Vincent

How to Save $$$ on Textbooks

Textbooks can be really expensive. How can you save some money? Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Check eBay or Amazon. – Rachael
  • Some my friends and I took the same class but different semesters. We split the cost. – Jessica
  • I learned that my college set what books were mandatory without consulting every instructor teaching a certain class and that if I showed up and asked my specific instructor, sometimes I didn’t have to buy all of the “required” texts. – Jackie
  • Rent E-books and use the amazon rental program. I have a Prime Account and some ebooks are free. – Farah
  • I talked with a few professors and they would lend me copies of the books, or tell me which ones were REALLY needed, when I explained I was actually poor, not just “can’t get extra foam in my latte” poor. – Ashley
  • Amazon, EBay, Chegg, I rent them, I also check the College libraries. Sometimes they have a copy of the textbook on file. Renting has been a very good option lately, however.
    I also wait for the first day of class and ask what books they are really going to use.
    – LaTisha
  • I checked out prior editions at the public library instead of buying the books. Also, the library sometimes has copies of books on reserve. You can read them at the library. – Jessica
  • As a college student, you get prime for half price! It’s only ~$52 a year instead of ~$115 for non-college students to rent used books that you can return at the end of your semester. They even give you all the shipping labels, you just have to ship them back out. AND they ship to you in 2 Days as a prime student member, which is essentially free expedited shipping – Ashley

What are some supports or services that you think colleges should provide foster youth?

We asked “More and more states are providing foster youth with tuition waivers. What other supports or services do you think colleges should be providing?”

In Texas, some college campuses have a foster-youth adviser on staff that helps guide the youth with their college degree plan, living situations and whatever else they need. I definitely think this is a practice that should be nation-wide.

– Kathy

I think they should provide tips to budget money, tips to study, and support groups for youth to see that there are other youth like them. We could be a support team for others and share our stories My college business clothing closet and a food pantry, which was amazing. Once we age out we are all we have.

– Dre’Sha

I think that a great service would be free tutoring. I take so much advantage of the University of Cincinnati’s LAC tutoring.

– Caitlyn

Housing over the summer and holidays. Some have nowhere to go home to.

– Jessica

I believe that colleges should provide extra help with young adults aging out of foster care, for example, I aged out of foster care with a baby. Although I was 18 and considered grown, I was not ready. I believe colleges should offer support groups and life skills such as budgeting, clear ways to be successful, mentors that are there for support every step of the way, and support groups to meet new people to gain a family in and out of college.

– Benickwa

Housing for summers, breaks, holidays. I literally transferred schools while in college because the school I changed to allowed you to stay in the dorms year round. You had to pay rent but it was cheaper than an apartment. So crucial.

– Jennie

Free tuition nationwide, including private schools or trade schools, because not everyone wants to be a doctor, social worker, teacher, or go to school for just general studies. Why add more stress on foster youth with loans and debt.

Housing options for foster youth with no place to go whether during the holidays and or throughout their time enrolled, with options that include temporary and permanent housing options for a lower cost.

Lower cost bus passes, discounted gas cards, free tutoring, support groups. A counselor on-site or nearby who can assist the youth with services, help the youth understand fully how their choices will impact there present and future, grants and scholarships the youth is eligible for, budgeting. A mentor or advocate that can help access additional services like food, clothes, housing, legal, and mental health.

I aged out with no family support, and barely any support from DSS. Even if the change isn’t available for me, I would still love to see a change happen. We deserve a fair chance in life and to have a successful and rewarding experience through our journey of continued education.

– Dejora

Bus passes. Many former foster youth don’t drive.

– Dre’Sha

I understand that there are different laws in each state, but for some foster kids, they move states while in care, then when they age out, aid is extremely confusing! (Me, me, me, I’ve definitely been in this situation). This results in not getting all the aid that is needed. I think that NATIONWIDE, foster kids should be offered free public tuition, and at least 75% aid for private or trade schools. Also, scholarships and aid for summer classes as well. FOSTER KIDS DESERVE A CHANCE. Being able to continue their education while not having to worry about how they’re going to pay for their tuition would take such a burden off and they could solely focus on bettering not only themselves but society as well.

We also need aid for housing, help with job security, and community support. A lot of teens come out of the system with no one and all of this is so needed to bring the statistics of being incarcerated or homeless DOWN. Most of the time foster youth have no savings or anything when they age out and have been fending for themselves for so long.

– Hadassah

I think just having someone to be there and support them before they start college and while attending and maybe after would be good. Not too many foster youth have someone who is supportive throughout their life.

– Arieanne

I think colleges should have a specific scholarship program that only foster or former foster youth should be able to apply to.

– K’Shara

A great idea might be finding ways for former foster care youth to take part in student organizations and clubs. Getting an education is really only one of the great parts of going to a college or university. Getting students involved in a club or organization that drives them to do better makes someone stand out. Sometimes its that extra little bit of inspiration that makes getting that degree worth it.

– Allistar

More interest in wanting to help students with career fields while providing them with counseling, clubs, resources, organizations on and off campus, internships, which can all help with getting comfortable in whatever career field.
– Karolline

An issue that I have is the lack of knowledgeable staff. I think that colleges should hire staff to specifically work with foster youth. We have needs that that are very much different than the traditional college student. We have overcome tremendous hurdles to get to this point. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get easier and it would help having staff available that are knowledgeable about our particular needs.

– Genevieve

Schools need trauma informed teachers and staff

– Kathy

I think that colleges should be able to better their counseling services. At my college, I haven’t met many people who are willing to share their stories, and it makes it hard for others to relate to others and socialize. There should be clubs that aim towards students in care or those interested in knowing more about people’s stories

– Jai Dasia

Extended housing during college breaks/holidays. I had to fight with an attorney to get my university to allow me to live off campus my freshman year (they had a rule all freshman and sophomores must live on campus unless living in a radius with family). Well, I didn’t have family. And if I would’ve lived in dorms I would’ve been homeless on the street when they closed for breaks.

– Sarah Elizabeth

Therapists specialized in trauma.

– Kay

Mentor program to keep students on track at community college would be helpful. For example, a program that matched up students and professors.

– Shalimar

  1. Create programs/ activities for foster youths that to remove barriers to employment.
    2. Make sure every foster youth admitted to a university knows where to get resources for their independent living and academic success.3. Employ them. Give them work-study. Teach us how to be successful on our own.4. Provide counseling, mentors, and advisers.

– Isimbi


How do you Handle Holiday Stress

The holidays can be very stressful. It seems like everyone is spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with their family. You may feel pressured to spend time with members of your bio family. Or you may feel like you need to spend money you don’t have on gifts for others. How do other students spend the holidays? We asked and here’s what you said:

Read moreHow do you Handle Holiday Stress

What life lessons has adversity taught you?

To always keep a positive outlook on all situations.

– Austin

There is no one in this world who you can truly count on but yourself. Even the people who love you and who you love can die or change in unexpected ways. Invest in yourself, so that you will be equipped to handle challenges that come your way, even if the people you love aren’t able to help you.

– Jackie

What you are going through in this moment is only temporary. You will look back and be amazed at how trivial something was “in the moment” but how far you have come since.

– Sheila

Be kind to others. You have no idea what they’re going through.

– Margaret

Adversity has taught me that even though bad things happen and people expect you to go down a certain path doesn’t mean that it will happen. You can fight what has happened and learn from it. Follow your own expectations not the ones of people that don’t know you or your story.

– Ashley

Adversity has taught me that I am capable of accomplishing anything I set my mind too. With not being fortunate enough to have other things my peers around me had, it made me work harder to obtain the new shirt or shoes I wanted. Nothing was handed too me, so I’ve had to work tremendously hard for things in life. I am blessed enough to have had the opportunity to grow in that aspect and thrive off of hard work and dedication.

– Faith

You need at least one person in your life who you can rely on.

– Hassan

In 2010, my adoptive family walked out of my life and I fell apart. I spoke up about my adoptive father molesting me for years. He made college hard for me at times. I withdrew [from school] in 2011 and shortly after became a victim of assault and became pregnant. I became homeless because of trying to escape my abuser and his family. I experienced hunger and physical abuse. It was tough. I killed my pride, moved into a homeless shelter for 3 months, enrolled back into college and walked to school every day.

I slowly began to fix my life. From an apartment, to a new car, scholarships galore, my daughter gave me motivation to be great. I finished my bachelor’s degree with a daughter and went straight into a master’s degree in Criminal Justice. I finished with a 3.9 while raising her and working full-time. Adversity has made me resilient, smart and resourceful. It has given me a purpose to make a difference in the lives of others.

This is a lot to share but I’m open because I have inspired so many people with my story. As a public speaker for the county prosecutor’s office, it gives me joy to share my story and open people’s eyes to what they are capable of doing with their love.
– Nautica


Lee’s Story

Third time’s a charm

My name is Daniel but everyone calls me Lee.  I graduated from Appalachian State University (ASU) in 2015 with a degree in Chemistry.  It’s one of the things I’m most proud of but let me tell you, it was a long and rocky road to get where I am today.

My story is about making mistakes and learning from them.  I’m living proof that everyone deserves a second chance. I my case, I needed a third chance to make things right.  I was a troubled teen and I was kicked out of high school in my junior year.  My foster mom, Linda helped me get back on track and finish high school.  She also encouraged me to go away to college so I could distance myself from the negativity of my past.

Unfortunately, even though I left my hometown, I didn’t leave trouble behind.  To be honest, I wasn’t ready to be in school. I didn’t think I was smart enough or that I belonged on campus.  I definitely wasn’t mature enough and the freedom was overwhelming.  I partied all the time and got into some really serious trouble.  I ended up getting kicked out of school after only eight weeks.

Partying too much and not taking school seriously were y the worst decisions that I made in college. Getting kicked out forced me to take a hard look at my life.  After a few weeks of working full-time in a fast food restaurant, I realized that I needed to go back to school.  ASU was willing to take me back – but only after I completed a treatment program and repaid monies owed to them.  It took a year, but I was able to re-enroll in the fall of 2011. This time, I was ready.

The turning point for me was discovering my love of chemistry. Most students, myself included, approach college chemistry with a feeling of dread.  But from the moment that class started, I realized I had found my passion.  I could spend hours playing with my molecular model kit. I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life!  It was right around this time that I also realized that no one cared that I was a foster kid.  At ASU, I was surrounded by people from so many different backgrounds. There was a place for everyone and for the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged.

Being in foster care doesn’t give you a lot of confidence in yourself or your abilities.   I’ve been lucky enough to have really great people in my life.  My foster mom wouldn’t give up on me and she saw my potential long before I ever did.  Dr. Babyak was one of my first chemistry professors.  She always had an encouraging word for me and I talked with her whenever I was feeling stressed.


She’d say,  “You’ll be fine, Lee. Don’t worry Lee – you’re such a smart kid! You always did well in my class so this will be easy for you.”


Her belief in me kept me going.  And even though I graduated, she’s still a source of support for me – writing me letters of recommendation, serving as a professional reference, and reminding me that I have what it takes to succeed.


Success isn’t just about having lots of money – it’s about appreciating what you have, connecting with others and giving back.  I’m excited for FosterU because I’ll be joining a community of people that I can relate to.  If students are struggling, or if they’ve made mistakes like I did, I want them to know that there’s hope and that they don’t have to be defined by the past.


Alexis’s Story

Getting Outside My Comfort Zone.

My name is Alexis. I’m a junior at Western Michigan University. Doing things outside of my comfort zone changed my life!

I started college as an accounting major. I have great organizational skills and a good work ethic and thought this was the right career for me.  It was predictable and looking back, it felt safe.

Getting outside of my comfort zone started when I took an entrepreneur class.  I realized I wanted to be a business owner. I changed my major to entrepreneurship and added food service administration to my degree plan.  I also decided I needed to see more of the world. I enrolled in a short study abroad program in the Dominican Republic.

I won’t lie – I was absolutely terrified to leave the U.S.  However, it was the best decision that I’ve made in college.  After three study abroad experiences and two more pending for the summer of 2017, I am a changed person.

I love immersing myself in the culture of other countries and have become passionate about global and international studies. I’m looking forward to many more adventures!

Being in foster care teaches you that you have to speak up for yourself.  Your ability to succeed is in your hands. You have to be your own best advocate.  Education is an investment you make in yourself and your future.  Education is the one possession that no one will ever be able to take away from you. It’s the key to improving your circumstances.  Getting an education will also help you develop the knowledge and skills you need to be an asset to your employer, your family, and your community.

Yesica’s Story


It was really hard for me to go back to school, I was scared and didn’t have a lot of self-confidence.  I was worried about money and didn’t think I would fit in.  I would tell myself, “I’m a high school drop-out, teen mom and former foster youth…that’s not the type of person that goes to college!”

After finishing high school, I got a minimum wage job and was making enough money to get by.  But then my life changed when I had my daughter.  Even though I was working full-time, what I was making was suddenly not enough.  The only way I knew I could improve my financial situation was to go back to school and get a career.  The only problem was I wasn’t sure which career.

I started job shadowing and volunteering as a way to explore different kinds of jobs.  I thought social work was the career for me because I love helping people.  I had some great ones while I was in foster care and have a lot of respect for this profession.  Imagine my surprise when within days of job shadowing a social worker, I realized that this was NOT the career for me!

I knew I wanted to be in a helping profession so I started volunteering in a hospital.  I loved it and decided that I wanted to be a nurse.  It hasn’t been easy but I’m on my way.  I’ll have my CNA license soon and I am currently working as a caregiver with the elderly.  I was recently admitted to the nursing program at Los Angeles Trade and Technical College.  At 24, it’s taken me years to figure out my path but one thing I know is that all of my school and life experiences are helping me develop the knowledge and skills that I’ll need to be successful in my career.

What I didn’t realize is that there is so much help out there for college students who were in the foster care system.  My advice is to not let fear or intimidation get to you and go for it.  Take advantage of all the support.  Many schools, like mine, also have campus-based programs where you can connect with foster care alumni and get the help that you need.  As a Pritzker Scholar, I also receive ongoing financial assistance, coaching and encouragement from a team of people invested in my success.

Going to college has changed me in so many ways.  I see the world differently. I no longer have the mentality that I can’t succeed.  Instead, I go into a job interview thinking, “I’ve got this – I’m going to get the job.”  I’m excited for FosterU because I want to share my experiences with others so they know success is within their reach.  With the common bond of our foster care experience, we can create an incredible network of support that will allow us to connect with, learn from, and rely on each other.