(Editor’s note: Student Champion Sara wrote this account of her journey from foster care to FAU student for publication in the newsletter and blog. We are grateful to her for sharing her powerful story.)
Being in foster care was always rough. I remember always feeling like the black sheep; I never fit in anywhere and I had no sense of belonging. I felt more like a waste of space than a human. In foster care, my biological family members and my foster parents always made me out to be the problem. Everything was always my fault. When I was in foster care, I was not allowed to be a normal kid and make normal mistakes. Every little thing that I did, I would be severely punished for and screamed at. I was constantly being told that I am lucky I was taken in since no one else wanted me and was emotionally abused for several years of my life.
I did poorly in high school, and I almost did not graduate. I remember being told that I’d never make it to college. I remember being told that I would end up pregnant before I turned 18 and on the streets. This was never an option for me. I promised myself that I would go to college.
When I was adopted, I was 17 and it was the summer before my senior year. I remember applying to colleges in September and praying I would get in. I was accepted by FAU, I worked hard the rest of my senior year, and I made it to FAU. My first semester was difficult. My adopted family wanted me to live at home, but I could not drive, and I would have to take the train and a few buses from South Broward up to Boca. I had class five days a week, spent about four hours a day on public transportation, and it was the middle of summer, so it was always insanely hot and humid. That was the most difficult summer of my life because I had no one pushing me except myself, and my advisor, Jasmine Moore. Jasmine was a life saver. She helped me figure out my financial aid so that I could afford to live on campus and not have to commute four hours a day anymore. She assisted me through my first two years of college, always acting as a mentor to me. She is part of how I came so far. No matter how poorly I may have done in a class, no matter if I may have run into some trouble with an RA, she never judged me or made me feel bad about my situation. She would help me out of it and encourage me to do better.
I joined Champions Empowering Champions at the start of my third year of college. I met Kim Dunn, and she made me feel like family. She goes above and beyond to make sure that I and every other member of Champions are taken care of. Champions also motivates me because I know I am not alone. There are others who have struggled like me, and they are here trying to rise above and pave their own paths to success as well. Because of my experience, my long- term career goal is to be to others what Jasmine and Kim have been to me. I would like to start my own university department that assists refugees with the transition to university life. I would like to help them figure out how to navigate college, how to be self-sufficient, how to rise above the situation you were born into and pave your own path, how to understand that where you came from isn’t your fault and that you have the power to determine where you go in your life.
Now that I am an adult, I understand why my childhood was the way it was. I understand that nothing was my fault. I understand that my childhood was my childhood to teach me to be strong, persistent, determined, and never give up. It taught me to rely on myself and it taught me that I need to push myself and celebrate my own accomplishments.