The sad truth is only three percent of people who spend their lives in foster care end up graduating college. Luckily, however, Felicitas Reyes is one of them.
Reyes was born in Georgia to a Mexican immigrant father. He decided to come to America to look for construction work. Soon, however, Reyes found her father going “in and out” of her life. On the other hand, Reyes’ mother became dependent on both drugs and alcohol. By the time she turned six, Reyes had already been in the foster system for a year. Little did she know, she would end up in the system for practically her entire childhood.
According to Reyes, she and her seven siblings soon moved to California because that is where their mother is from. They took a Greyhound bus to Orange County and found themselves staying in various homeless shelters and motels. “There was just a lot of stuff going on and that’s when I entered the system again,” Reyes recalled. It did not take long before social workers came to assist Reyes’ family. She and all her siblings were placed in a group home. However, soon, they found themselves getting separated.
Reyes’ siblings ended up being sent to live with various foster parents. At some point though, they were also returned to their mother. Unfortunately, their mother was not able to keep a job while also trying to stay sober. And so, Reyes’ sibling just kept getting taken away again. “It was a cycle that just kept repeating itself,” Reyes told People.
Despite their unfortunate situation, however, Reyes said her mother kept encouraging her to prioritize her education. According to Reyes, her mother asked her to “put education in front of everything else.” When she reached ninth grade, Reyes managed to get accepted into a program which allowed her to attend a top high school in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Reyes gets valuable support while attending USC.
Tragedy struck her family, however. Reyes’ older brother got shot and killed by police. Meanwhile, her mother dealt with serious depression as her younger siblings returned to foster care. Despite these odds, Reyes persevered. In 2013, Reyes started attending University of Southern California (USC) thanks to a mix of scholarships and grants. Moreover, Reyes also credits the Trojan Guardian Scholars for supporting her the entire time in college. “Trojan Guardian Scholars offers support – whether financially, emotionally, professionally – to youth who identify as
“Trojan Guardian Scholars offers support – whether financially, emotionally, professionally – to youth who identify as former foster youth or homeless youth, or come from a similar background.” In fact, the program even allowed Reyes to spend a summer fellowship abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At the same time, Reyes also credits her older sister, Vannessa Sanchez, for encouraging her to stay in school. She admits that there were times when she thought about quitting. “I didn’t really know if I really belonged there,” Reyes said.
In the end, Reyes did it. She graduated from USC on May 12 with a 3.8 GPA and a degree in American studies. Today, Reyes is now facing a challenge of finding a job. And as she does, she is determined to be optimistic. “I’m more excited now than I am nervous. But I’m not complaining. I’m one of the lucky ones.”
Aside from obtaining a degree recently, Reyes has reconnected with both her mother and father. Her mother has also already been sober for a decade.
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