CSF Alumni Xana with former Governor Gary Locke at the 19th Annual Governors’ Cup Golf Tournament to benefit the Washington State Governors’ Scholarship for Foster Youth. In their own words, Xana shares the challenges they faced as a foster youth and how they beat the odds to graduate from college debt free.
I come from a broken home. My childhood was full of instability. People always asked if my family was in the military because we moved so much, but we weren’t. We were just poor. My mother was lost, my father in prison, my brother and I trying our best to simply survive. I watched, and experienced, emotional and physical abuse. I never knew what tomorrow would be like, or if there would be a tomorrow to look forward to.
Through it all, I clung to school. No matter where I was, no matter what my home life was like, I knew I could depend on my teachers. I held strong to the belief that education would save me.
I was placed into foster care my freshman year of high school. It was terrifying and infuriating. I was upset to not only be pulled away from my family, but also my school—my lifeline. I didn’t have the right tools to cope, and I fell back on what I saw from my parents and environment. Within that first year of high school, I lived in three placements. Each time I moved, I demanded to stay at the school I was in: the one place of stability and control I had.
As I was nearing the end of my freshman year, my grades were dropping, and my current placement asked for me to be moved. My counselor took me to meet a couple who had approached her about opening their home to displaced youth. They were nice, welcoming, nonjudgmental. I felt like I could finally breathe. I fell in love with them and their home, and I laughed harder than I had in a long while. Just shy of two weeks before my sophomore year, I was approved to move in and continue going to my high school. I now call them my bonus family, my forever home.
They gave me the stability and love I had always needed. I stopped doing drugs; I got my grades back up; I ate home-cooked meals. I felt like I was living a completely different life. I had a safe place to call my own, and that was enough for me to keep going.
My junior year of high school, I was connected to an organization that took me on a field trip to Western Washington University where I found my dream school and began considering college a possibility. They also connected me to College Success Foundation.
Through CSF, I participated in an annual summer college campus experience that helps foster youth successfully transition from high school to college. It was an incredible opportunity to connect with others like me and learn how they were beating the odds and creating a better future for themselves.
Sharing stories with other youth and discovering the opportunities that were waiting for me changed my life. I was inspired to embrace college, and I became passionate about planning for the future. I was accepted into Western Washington University and earned multiple scholarships, including the Governors’ Scholarship for Foster Youth. Earning the Governors’ Scholarship helped me not just financially, but also emotionally, by affirming that I am wise and strong and believed in. I felt so proud and looked forward to taking the plunge into college.
College was magical, scary, stressful, and all the things people told me it would be. In a way, it felt easier to leave my home and live independently. But in other ways, it was harder. Although I doubted that I had the strength to pull through, I gained courage and learned not just through my classes, but also through everyday life. I worked extremely hard to start healing the wounds of my childhood and the trauma of being placed into the foster care system. I still am. As I like to say, growth is slow. Healing is hard.
CSF helped connect me to other foster care alums at Western with whom I shared meals, volunteered, and created lasting friendships. During my junior year, I was hired as a counselor for CSF’s summer program for foster youth, and I applied for a paid position to mentor other foster youth the following year. It was a lot of work, but it left my soul fed and my heart happy.
Once I felt stable, I began to reflect with gratitude on all the help I received and the positive difference it made on my life. CSF gave me community, food, encouragement, and people I could go to for questions or a listening ear. In a way, they have been another bonus family, helping me through challenges and celebrating my victories every step of the way. It’s hard to describe how meaningful and important it is to have what feels like a safe home when you come from a broken one. I’ve been paying it forward in as many ways as I can ever since.
I graduated in spring 2019 with an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree in psychology, health and wellness, and human sexuality. My dream is to become a community consent educator and trauma-informed therapist for youth in foster care. I have big plans, and I’m excited to go after them. My experience through foster care, high school and college has taught me that I am capable of much more than I ever imagined.
I wouldn’t be sharing these accomplishments and breakthroughs if it wasn’t for College Success Foundation. Their support throughout my journey has been such a huge contributor to my success. It reminded me that I wasn’t alone, I was believed in, I was supported, and I could do this. I want other foster youth to have these same reminders and see that no matter our circumstances, anything is possible.
Every contribution you make is another reminder to someone struggling through the foster care system that they are seen, they are worthy, and they are capable of dreaming bigger. It may not seem like much, but it makes all the difference.
The statistics say that less than 3 percent of foster youth graduate college. I beat those odds, and with your support, many more will too.
Help give more foster youth a chance to succeed. Make a gift to CSF today.