Undergraduates: A - G

Photo of Xavier Aranda

Xavier Aranda

Grade: Freshman
Major: Ethnic Studies
Minor: Sociology

Hello my name is Xavier Aranda, I'm 18 years old and I was in the foster care system from 1995 to 2007. I graduated from James Logan High School in Union City and I am currently attending CSU East Bay to become a social science teacher because I know the influence teachers have on a person. They have the ability to change a life through words and education. My long-term goal is to get a masters degree in educational leadership to become a high school principal.

My siblings and I were fortunate to have our grandparents take us in when we were small. They instilled in us that our parents' problems were not our own. I think that's part of the reason why I have such a good sense of self.

I have five siblings, two of whom are my triplets. Another lives with my aunt and the other is lives in Oklahoma with his adoptive parents. My triplets and I are very close to each other. They're a big part of the reason I'm pursuing my education. They have pushed me to better myself and supported me in every endeavor by nurturing my dreams into reality.

Sociologist Katherine Conger at the University of California, Davis says "siblings are with us for the whole journey" and that they "may be the only people we'll ever know who truly qualify as partners for life". So despite having two unhealthy parents I have been shaped in the best way possible by my brothers and sister.

When I'm tired of studying or waking up at 6am on Saturday to go to school I ask 'why am I doing this to myself?' 'Will I make it?' My brother is always there to say, "Of course you're going to make it, you want it and I know you will". It feels great to have someone like that because I know not many people in foster care have someone like that. I hope to be that person to other people when I am a teacher.

A quote I really identify with is "though I do not believe a plant will spring up were no seed has been I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed in there and I am prepared to expect wonders." My brothers and sister have planted that seed in me. They have watered me with every piece of advice they gave me and they have given me sun with every piece of encouragement. Now I'm ready to grow as a person and as a professional.

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Miriam Araya

My name is Miriam Araya and I am from Santa Rosa. I entered foster care when I was 12 when my grandmother took custody over me. Being in foster care really turned out to be a blessing, because if I was still with my mother I know she wouldn’t be able to afford the education I'm receiving now. Even though all the abuse and torment from my past life still leaves scars, I think everything really does happen for a reason. I plan to keep on perusing my dreams at Cal State East Bay and strive to become the best person I can possibly be.

Photo of Sarah Araya

Sarah Araya

Grade: Sophomore
Major: Biological Science

Hello my name is Sarah Araya. I'm 19 and I'm a first year at Cal State East Bay. I love to be with my family because they are the most important thing to me. I also like to learn new things, help people, sing, dance, and be creative. I grew up in Sebastopol which is about 2 hours north of Hayward. I currently live on campus at Pioneer Heights (it's been quite an experience). My major is biology and I'm hoping to attended Medical school upon my graduation. I would like to become a doctor, although I'm not exactly sure what kind I want to be yet.

I entered the foster care system when I was 15. At 15 I thought being in the foster care system was going to be a setback for me. I thought because I was in it I wouldn't get the same opportunities as people who aren't in it. I really thought it would become something negative for my future. Now that I'm in college, I think being in the foster care system has actually been one of the best things to happen to me. I didn't think I was going to go to college, but I meet a lot of supporting and motivating people in the system who wanted to see me rise above the statistics.

Being a foster youth means I have to set an example for other foster youth as well as for my own siblings. I feel like I have to show others that they can rise above their circumstances and achieve their goals and dreams. This is my first year being a part of the Renaissance Scholars Program. It has helped me with providing tutoring services and advising on my collegiate career. I enjoy being a part of the program and I hope as my years progress at CSUEB to take advantage of the workshops and many other features it has to offer.

Photo of Regina Brown

Regina Brown

Hello, my name is Regina Brown and I'm 19 years old. I graduated from Skyline High School in 2008. I attend California State University, East Bay as an incoming freshman that lives on campus. From intense struggles, to being in a stable place in my life I've learned multiple lessons. When I was young my mother wasn't always there for my siblings and me. Having my mother dealing with my father leaving her and the usage of multiple drugs had a bad affect on the house hold. Being in foster care since the age of 9 has been hard. I felt as if I was alone and no one cared for me. I was embarrassed to explain to friends why I don't have parents that would show up to school events or meetings. Feeling and being different than others made me feel alienated from other youth; it hurts. With the support of four siblings they kept me on my toes and never let me forget why I attend school and take it so seriously.

If I never went through what I experienced I would not do as well as I am now in every aspect of life. For a long time I tried to figure out what makes me happy and what makes me the person I am today. Through the years I discovered I'm happy when I wake up in the morning and attend school having the feeling that I'm important; and I was. Because I have multiple career objectives I am currently undecided in my major.

Renaissance Scholars showed me that I'm not alone and that they can help me through the pain and agony that my heart is trying to mend. It's like one big family that you can share good and bad times with -- a family that stumbles along the way but can make it together regardless of the weather.

Photo of Tanya Buchanan

Tanya Buchanan

Grade: Senior
Major: Art
Double-Option: Multimedia, Photography

Hello my name is Tanya Buchanan I am a single mother, student, and Renaissance Scholar at Cal State East Bay. I am a mother of a beautiful four girl named Ariel. This year is my fourth year at Cal State East Bay where I am a photography and multimedia major and I have minor in ASL (American Sign Language). This year is the first year that I have been part of the Renaissance Scholars Program here at Cal State East Bay.

I would have never thought I would be in college, let alone be part of a program with the word scholar in the title. If my life were a book and you read it from the beginning you would never imagine I would be here. I came from a world were education was not a priority, it was more important to just survive. I am a former foster youth from LA County; I entered foster care at the age of twelve.

Being a Renaissance Scholar means a lot to me, the program has given a lot of support in ways I could never imagine, they push to do my best. The program gives me the opportunity to obtain my goal to be the first in my family to graduate from college. The program has given me finical support through a scholarship and priority registration to assure I am able to enroll in the classes I need. I am thankful and proud to part of such a program, which gives foster youth a chance and the tools to succeed when no one else would.

Photo of Ashley Butler

Ashley Butler

Grade: Senior
Major: Sociology
Option: Sociology

My name is Ashley Butler and I was born in Phoenix Arizona, September 24, 1985 to Keven and Charlene Butler. Shortly after we moved to San Francisco, California. Although I was a happy child, I grew up fast with a lot of responsibilities and knowledge of the real world. At age 11 i was placed in the foster system, where I would remain until age 17. I felt like my world was turned upside-down, and It was a constant struggle being a foster child a teenager and a student

I went to Herbert Hoover Middle School where I sang in the mass choir, ran track and was labeled "class clown". Between middle school and high school I had probably been moved to 4 different homes, and throughout high school, several more. I atteneded Balboa High School where, for a while my home problems were reflected in the classroom. I loved sports, and being on sports teams so I decided to work hard to achieve the minimum GPA required to play

In the middle of my junior year my grades hit rock bottom, and I realized that i wasn't doing the best that I could do, and it was time for a change. My senior year I recieved a 4.0 GPA and a new desire to graduate college. After attending City College of San Francisco for 2 years and recieving a basketball scholarship to a private school, I transfered. After just one year of the pricey private school i realized that it wasn't for me, and I transfered to California State University East Bay. Now a senior, I am a Renaissance Scholar majoring in Sociology and have goals of being a social worker in my home town of San Francisco. Although I had a rough childhood, i've grown to realize hat we all do-in some way or another. I am thankful for my experiences, because they have taught me, and made me as strong as I am today.

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Carmen Coman

My name is Carmen Coman and I am 18 years old. I was in the foster care system for about 2 ½ years. I struggled very much throughout that time to find myself as a person. The major occurrence that has changed my life and made me much more determined than I ever knew I could be was entering college. But college would have really shocked me coming in a freshman directly out of high school. In joining the remarkable and motivating Renaissance Scholars program, I was also blessed with the opportunity to join the EOP and Summer Bridge programs. Summer Bridge prepared me for a lot of things academically and socially for entering the university. Being a part of Renaissance Scholars has helped me indubitably with my motivation and has accelerated my confidence by letting me know I am not completely on my own. While Renaissance Scholars is a wonderful program, it's much more than that -- it's also a family.

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Jasmine Davis

I wasn't born into this world like most children who are welcomed into open arms with wide smiles. I was born on the side of the road en-route to Mercy Hospital in San Diego. When I was born my mother didn't want me and wanted to leave me for dead. I did not have anyone there to pick me up from the hospital and it was by the grace of God that a friend of my grandmother was there to bring me to her home.

I do not remember that much about my childhood, but can only base things off of what others have told me. A woman by the name of "Sister Barnes" took care of me from the time I left the hospital to the age of 3. My grandparents took care of me from the age of 3 to the age of 4 and then I was sent to live with my Aunt from the age of 4 to 6 years old. She took good care of me and I began to get attached to her. Unfortunately, she was unable to take care of me along with my 9-year-old sister due to health problems so we were sent to live with my grandparents again who moved to Kentucky.

Sadly, after 10 years of living with them, they were both admitted into the hospital for health reasons. Because I could not stay at home on my own, I was sent to live with our neighbor for a week in the hopes that their health would get better. Unfortunately, their conditions did not improve and they had no choice but to send me back to California. I dreaded coming back to California more than anything I can recall. I especially loathed the idea of having to go into the foster care system after living with my family all my life. I remember crying the entire 5 hour plane ride and continuing asking myself ‘Why?' over and over again.

I absolutely hated my first foster home. I was brought up around African-Americans my entire life, and having to live with Mexicans did not strike me as a good idea. My 16th birthday was quickly approaching and for the first time in my life I was not looking forward to it. During my stay at my first foster home I remember having no one to turn to for support and not being able to call my grandparents because of the high long-distance rates. My second foster parents were black, but they were upper-class and hated my southern ways. My final foster home was with a single school teacher who had 3 kids of her own. She treated me like crap and her own children like human beings. I was then taken to live in a group home called San Pasqual Academy. My stay there may have been decent, but emancipating may have been the best thing to ever happen to me.

Photo of Shantell Davis

Shantell Davis

Grade: Sophomore
Major: Sociology

My name is Shantell Davis. I am 19 years of age and I am in third year of college as a transfer student at California State University, East Bay. I attended Los Medanos College in Pittsburg for two years. College has been a challenge but I continue to push through. It is important to me because not only will I be the first in my family with a bachelor degree and set an example for my younger kin, but I am also setting an example for younger foster youth.

I was placed in foster care at birth. It was hard growing up in the system and college seemed farfetched. I know for a fact that going to college seems impossible to foster youth because the only thing they can think of is where they will lay there head once they turn 18 and emancipate. Well, I am here to set an example and let it be known that it can happen and will happen with determination. I am a full-time student and I also enjoy reading, dancing, and modeling in my spare time. I am excited about starting this new challenge and I am honored to be a part of the Renaissance Scholars Program.

Photo of Justin Fuqua

Justin Fuqua

Hello, my name is Justin Fuqua and I am currently a freshman at Cal State East Bay. I have lived in Los Angeles County my whole life so this is very far from home for me. It is my first time away from home on my own and I must say it is going very well. I have lived with my grandparents ever since I was 2 months old. They were the main ones who were there for me and pushed me to succeed in life. Without them I would not know the people I know today nor be where I am. I graduated in June 2008 from a small charter school called Community Charter Early College High School. I am attending CSUEB to major in Computer Engineering. That field of work interests me because I really like technology. I am always the go-to person when something is not working right. My dream is to become the next Bill Gates or close to it. I want to change the whole computer industry. Eventually the world will all be computer accessible and I want to make it easier for everyone when that day comes. I believe Renaissance Scholars is great for me and will help me succeed in many ways in the future.

Photo of Nekisha Gallon

Nekisha Gallon

Our family problems evolved from drugs. My home life consisted of living with the only family I ever knew, and they were on drugs. My grandmother, step-grandfather, mother and father were all on drugs. Crack cocaine was their drug of choice.

This "family addiction," became a family tradition. At first this legacy made me fearful. However, I eventually became immune to my surroundings. I was numb and dead inside. That is how I survived. While my elders seemed to enjoy their drug-induced stupor, my siblings and I were forced to suffer from their neglect.

A lot of people, who were in my situation, or a similar one, have either ended up on drugs, pregnant, or a high school drop-out. God blessed me in order to make it this far. I have a strong head on my shoulders and the determination to do better than my parents.

I am an excellent leader: of my own life. I have deliberately made daily choices to stay on a path that will bring me to a positive outcome. My choices have not been easy and I have not always chosen the best option. However, I have made a personal decision that I will lead myself and that I will not be lead by others.

Photo of Paul Garcia

Paul Garcia

Grade: Junior
Major: Sociology
Option: Sociology

I was born in Los Angeles and I am 19 years old. I grew up with many different families, mostly in Oakland, California. As for Oakland, it is a dangerous place for children to grow up in because they can end up in the wrong crowds. When I was a little kid I was a trouble maker and was not going to pass my fourth grade class until the teacher asked me, "Do you want to end up in the streets when you grow up?" She knew I was in the foster care system. So, then I stepped up and she also tutored me and I passed and went to fifth grade and passed again.

I do not have any family members but I was adopted when I was a baby. My adopted parents didn't really care about me due to the fact I wasn't their biological son. They also told me that I was going to be nobody. This made me very sad and I did my best to graduate and prove them wrong. Eventually, I went to another foster family because my adopted family was abusing me and the other children they had.

Then I lived with many different family members each year moving back and forth in Oakland. Then I graduated in middle school but I didn't go to my graduation ceremony even though I was told that I received two different awards. Since then I have been living with a foster dad named Alfonso Garcia I got adopted by him and that's why my name is Garcia. During my sophomore year in high school, Alfonso got in trouble and went to jail for a very long time. Since all his family members are in Mexico, I went back to the foster care system for the last three years of high school. Like before, I was thinking about college but my second choice was the Army due to the fact that I do not have any family members to take care of me and I needed to support myself.

Then Kristina, a college coordinator for ILSP, told me about EOP which helps kids get through college. After I got accepted to Cal State East Bay and Renaissance Scholars, I didn't have to go to the Army. I am in my second year at Cal State East Bay and I was undecided about a major until I thought about being a Social Worker due to the fact that my previous Social Worker didn't really care about me. I want to help kids in situations like mine, except I would talk to them and be better than previous Social Workers. I would also be their counselor, tutor, and just help them with life in general.

It is really hard for foster children especially those who don't have family members because most of the kids in society have received aid or support from their parents. However, foster youth must face life without support and overcome tremendous obstacles. If I can achieve this I know other foster youth can too. I just hope is not too late and that's why I want to be a social worker because I want to change the lives of children to a better and brighter one.

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