Class of 2010

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Laura Chavarria

Hello, my name is Laura Chavarria. I am 21 years old and I graduated from Merritt College on May 29, 2008. I achieved my degrees in Liberal Arts, Social Behavioral Sciences, Business Administration, and Business Accounting. This fall 2008 is my first quarter at Cal State University East Bay as a transfer student and a Renaissance Scholar, with a major in Criminal Justice and a double minor in Sociology and Psychology. I am honored to be one of the Scholars from the Renaissance Program. I am eager to be involved in the programs, activities and benefits that Renaissance has to offer.

I became a teen parent at age 13 and entered the foster care system in 2004. Entering the foster care system at age 17 with my 3-year-old toddler was a scary and devastating experience. Particularly, after knowing that at age 18 I was required to emancipate. Despite the challenges, faced during high school and in college, I was able to overcome and accomplish my academic endeavors at Merritt College. Thanks to the help of God, programs of opportunity, and wonderful people that God has used and keeps using is how I got this far.

Throughout, my years I was judged and received negative feedback from people that "loved" me and from people that did not even know me. God always has had somebody that would advocate for me during my tribulations. Now, I can look back and gain strength and motivation from my weaknesses, this is what keeps me following my mission. I can attest that if we have internal motivational skills we can accomplish anything we set our minds to do. One valuable piece of the advice I learned recently from a Hispanic professional is the three O's motto "OOO"; Opportunity, Ownership of what we received, and Overcome the situation. We have the opportunity, now we have to own the opportunity and overcome the situation. Overcoming the situation means putting effort to our studies; therefore, giving back to our community by showing our accomplishments to people who have believed in us. Thus, gaining a better future for our family and helping the ones behind us.

My goal at CSUEB is to achieve the highest educational level possible. I want to go to Graduate school and obtain my Masters in Public Affairs and then my Ph.D. so that I can have many doors open and obtain a brighter future for me and my family. I want to make a difference in many individuals' lives in my role as a professional.

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Alexander Ligon

Degree: Biology

Hi my name is Alexander Ligon and I entered the foster care system at the age of 16. I grew up in Oakland as a child but moved to Fremont when I was removed from my mother's custody. Through the years I developed my interests in things like sports, art, reading, poetry, movies, and traveling. All these things gave me a refuge from so many bad situations I could have been in. Food is another activity I take part in because tasting or cooking good food makes me happy.

As for my college life I am majoring in Pre-Nursing with the possibility of going Pre-Med. Having an interest in the health care field was present in me due to my ability to empathize and care for others. Seeing these attributes as natural, caring for others was what I wanted to do.

The dorms on campus are treating me well by allowing me access to peers with the same goal as myself and alternative outlooks for me to consider and grow from. I have been in the Renaissance Scholars program since its inception in 2006. This program has given me a more stable living arrangement, caring counselors, and financial backing for needed materials. Even though going through the dilemmas of being a foster child was hard it was also a lifelong lesson. Seeing how life can turn upside-down in an instant you have to take it how it is and continue to strive for what you want.

Class of 2009

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Tempest Jones

Degree: Criminal Justice Administration

My name is Tempest Jones and I entered foster care at age 12. I grew up mostly in Oakland but spent a few years in Hayward. My major is Criminal Justice with a minor in Human Development and Sociology. I want to be a juvenile probation officer when I graduate. I have been a Renaissance Scholar for almost a year. They have helped me with getting into classes that I needed and have helped financially with a scholarship. This program has given me the support and encouragement that I need to finish college. I currently live in Richmond with my fiancé and our soon to be 2 year old son. Being a foster youth means that although I have been through a lot, I will not let it determine where I will go in life and who I will be.

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Deyona Vanderhorst

Degree: Criminal Justice Administration

Hello, my name is Deyona Vanderhorst I am a transfer student from Laney College in Oakland California. I will be enrolling as a junior this Fall at Cal State East Bay, and I will be majoring in Criminal Justice. After I graduate from Cal State East Bay I plan on attending law school to further my education. After I graduate from law school I plan on pursuing a career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

At birth I was placed into foster care. Luckily, my biological father's sister decided to take me in. She adopted me and I have lived with her my whole life. When I was fifteen my biological parents decided that they would try to gain custody of me. My biological parents, my aunt, and I went to a few court hearings. At the last hearing the judge said that I was old enough to decide where I wanted to live, and I chose to continue living with my aunt. I was really happy that the judge let me make the decision, because I didn't have a relationship with my biological parents and they were strangers to me. After the last hearing the lawyer that was provided to represent me thought it would be best for me aunt to become my legal guardian.

Since I was in legal guardianship at fifteen I didn't qualify for some of the programs that are provided for foster youth, for example ILSP. So I would like to thank you for not turning me away, and helping me pursue my goals. Without your help it would have been very stressful trying to pay for college on my own. I really appreciate everything that you have done to help not just me, but all foster youth in this program. I will show my appreciation by graduating from college, and helping others.

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Debvora Woods

Degree: Criminal Justice

My name is Debvora Woods and I have been in foster care since the day I was born. My mother and father have never had custody of me but as a foster child I had the privilege to live with a family member as opposed to a total stranger like some. Foster care to me is nothing negative at all, I do not know where I would be if they didn't have such a system. The experiences have shaped me into the person that I am today.

I grew up in Los Angeles and I love playing basketball and exploring new things. At one point my major was computer science but due to math difficulties I changed to criminal justice which is something I am very excited about. I am residing in the Cal State Eastbay dorms and this is my second year having the privilege to do that.

I have been a Renaissance Scholar since it began in 2006 and I love the program because it has helped me accept the fact that I am a foster child and there is nothing to be ashamed of. The counselors have helped me get on the right path to become successful in the field of criminal justice. I have not chosen a profession yet.

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Sade Young

Class of 2008

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Charvett Blincoe

Degree: BA, Business Administration

Hello, my name is Charvett Blincoe and I entered the foster care system when I was 15. I grew up in Oakland, CA and I know reside in San Leandro, CA with my six year old daughter Nylla. I have spent several years trying to figure out how to be a single parent, full-time student, and an athlete.

I love competing in track and field events. This year I ran for Mission Valley Track and Field (MVTF) club. I also enjoy dancing and I perform for several annual events for my church Bay Area Church of Christ (BACC). During the summer I intern for Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco through the INROADS internship program. I have been an Inroader for the past two summers and I currently serve as the Student Board President. We plan events and community service activities for the interns during the summer.

My major is Business Administration, with an option in organizational communications/public relations. I intend to work for Kaiser in their public affairs department upon graduation. While at Kaiser I plan to write a movie and develop a plan for a nonprofit organization to help foster youth receive more subsidized housing and mentorship opportunities. I would like to both write a film and start a nonprofit organization because I believe people need hope, inspiration, and opportunity. I have been a Renaissance Scholar for one year but I served on the Advisory Board as a student representative when the program was being formed. The Renaissance Scholars programs has really helped inspire me and has been an extra encouragement financially and motivationally to help me complete my educational goals.

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Nancy Leung

Degree: BA, Sociology

Hi, my name is Nancy Leung. I currently reside in Oakland, which is also where I grew up. I entered the foster care system at the age of 17. Because I entered the system at an older age than most other foster youth, I think I have a different perspective regarding my experiences in the foster care system. However, it is difficult for me to articulate my feelings in regards to what it means for me to have been a former foster youth, simply because the experience itself was so profound. Some of my experiences were positive while others were negative. I prefer to focus on the positive; I was fortunate enough to come across people who truly cared enough to help me.

The Renaissance Scholars Program aims to help former foster youth. I have been a Renaissance Scholar for almost a year now, and the program has helped me in a number of ways. The most helpful aspect of the program has been the academic advising I have received. Prior to my participation in this program, I had received no academic advising whatsoever. I am currently a senior, double majoring in Health Sciences and Sociology and at the moment, I am considering careers in social work or in the medical field. Though I am not exactly sure which career to pursue, I do know that I want a career that allows me to help people, just as others have helped me in the past.

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Ruth Lira

Degree: BA, Biological Science

I am Ruth Lira, a graduating senior majoring in Biology and minoring in Human Development here at CSU, East Bay. I was born, raised, and reside in San Jose. I entered foster care at the age of 16. I have been a Renaissance Scholar for one year and when we first began brainstorming for this program, our dream was to provide needed services to former foster youth at CSU, East Bay. As the program began to bloom, I realized how being a part of the Advisory Board provides valuable information for the foundation of this program.

The future Renaissance Scholars will benefit from all the generous support others have made to make this happen. Being a foster youth means being resilient, having been granted a second chance at life, and using that resiliency to provide a better future for myself.

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Jeanette Quintero

Degree: BA, Human Development

As a former foster child I know that the odds of completing college and succeeding in a career are against me. My motivation is my daughter Sydney Victoria Munoz because I want to make sure that she can attend college and focus on school without other worries. I will not deny that being in foster care was hard, and mind boggling, but it made me understand that without an education I wouldn't get anywhere in life. I've been attending Cal State East Bay, which I was financially unprepared to attend.

Attending a University seemed an unreachable goal mainly because I didn't have the money or the emotional support. Imagine going off to college without the loving support of family. Every year foster children aged out of the system will try and embark on the journey of going to college. These children will attend college feeling scared, lonely and unsure of things. They do not have someone to give them moral support and guide them through the education system. But as a member of the Renaissance Scholars Program I received help with my educational goals and life skills in order to be successful. The program has helped me feel confident in attending college because I know they are backing me up.

I am majoring in Human Development and want a Masters in Social Work. I'm grateful for the program which helps us reach the goals we set out to achieve. I've kept myself in school and have maintained a steady job at the same restaurant for the past four years, along with maintaining an acceptable GPA. My daughter has also benefited from the program because know I can give her a better life.

Class of 2007

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Chantel Johnson

Degree: BA, Sociology

Chantel graduated with a Bachelors degree in Sociology from Cal State East Bay in
Fall 2007. During her senior year on campus she also held the position of Associated
Student Body President.

Following her pursuit for a career in public policy Chantel has gone on to intern in
the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, a fellowship in the California State Senate,
and is now the Legislative Coordinator for the non-profit California Youth
Connection where she works with and on behalf of current and former foster youth to
promote positive legislative for California’s child welfare system.

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Kennisha Jones

Degree: BA, Biology

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