“It takes a lot to know what you want,” Celeste says. “I didn’t really start to learn who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do with my life until I came to Seneca.” Dressed in boots and jeans with a stylish handbag slung over her shoulder, Celeste looks the part of a college student. It’s hard to believe that only a couple years ago, this young woman with such energy and confidence was just an anxious high school student, trying to get along with her foster mother, worrying about her younger sister, who was also in foster care, and trying to stay connected to her biological mom. Celeste knew if she wanted to go to college she had to get good grades. When asked about her journey to college, she was quiet for a minute and looked like she was remembering a younger, more vulnerable version of herself. “When you’re in foster care, you’re not thinking about college or the future, you’re thinking about where am I going to have my next meal and is it safe to go back to my foster home.”
Celeste was just 7 years old when she and her younger sister were taken from their mother, who was struggling with drug addiction. On two different occasions, Celeste and her sister went back home to live with their mother, only to find themselves back in the foster care system after their mother relapsed. For Celeste, moving from one foster home to another meant frequently changing schools, communities and access to any real sustainable support system. Over the course of high school, Celeste attended three different schools, which isn’t an uncommon experience for youth in foster care. Changing schools often means failing grades and lost credits and makes graduating within four years almost impossible. According to the National Foster Care Institute, high school drop-out rates are three times higher for youth in foster care.
“The foster system is much more focused on what is happening with the youth now rather than looking at the future,” says Lillian Conboy, Celeste’s Support Counselor with Seneca Family of Agencies, who believes that foster youth need to be supported but also empowered. “At Seneca I was given the option to make my own choices, which is not something I have ever been given the option to do,” says Celeste. “Your (county) social workers will tell you what’s going to happen. They don’t ask you what you want or are you ok with this, they will just tell you straight up.”
“Helping our foster youth have a voice in the process is critical,” says Lillian, who helped Celeste track down high school transcripts, edit her college essays and complete all her financial aid forms.
Celeste, now a sophomore at UC Merced, majoring in Chemistry and Public Health, hopes to practice medicine at a community clinic. Youth in foster care are some of the most peripheralized populations and far more likely to experience unemployment, homelessness and incarceration. By helping our youth in foster care like Celeste access higher education, you are committing an act of social justice.
Join us by investing in these deserving young people and help make the dream of college accessible to everyone!
Since 1985 Seneca Family of Agencies has been helping children and families through the most difficult times of their lives. Seneca is a nonprofit mental health agency, providing Unconditional Care through an array of school, community-based and family-focused treatment services for children and families throughout California and Washington state.
We offer each child a simple but profound promise: You will be supported every step of the way, no matter what challenges you face.
Nathaniel Foster, Chief Advancement Officer
Phone: (720) 989-1234