Graduation Feels Like Destiny Fulfilled


I now know I am able to overcome the negativity, to prove that I am one of the few who wants to gain knowledge. – Desiree Cruz

Graduating from high school can mean a lot of things to someone. For Desiree Cruz, it felt like destiny.

“That’s the only path for me, the only way my life can be,” said Cruz, who entered foster care when she was 5 and was raised by her grandmother.

Cruz graduated from Roosevelt High School in 2013 and will attend Cal State L.A.

But it could have turned out differently.

Young people who wind up in foster care through no fault of their own face long odds against attending college or even graduation from high school. Nationally only half of former foster youth graduate from high school, and just 3% will attend a four-year college.

Cruz says she has heard the stories, and they didn’t get in the way of her dreams.

As she wrote in her personal statement for college: “I realized my life was about struggling through challenges that I had no control over…. With time, I’ve grown to realize that I am able to change my life with my education. I now know I am able to overcome the negativity, to prove that I am one of the few who wants to gain knowledge, to become a better person and not be part of the statistics that a lot of people predict.”

The attorneys and social workers in Public Counsel’s Transition Age Foster Youth unit give one-on-one support to foster youth like Cruz through our school-based projects and other programs.

Our efforts have defied the national statistics about foster youth. This year Public Counsel has helped 14 foster youth graduate from high school; 13 are headed to community college or university, and the other student already has a job lined up.

Cruz said the support she got from Public Counsel, teachers and others in the child welfare system helped her realize she could pursue her future – even at her loneliest moments.

“It really does open our eyes that we can do it without the support of our family,” she said. “They are our family.”