Youth Stories - George GarciaMy name is George Garcia. When I was ten years old, I was placed into the foster care system with my four siblings. Over the next eight years, I had was separated from my siblings and forced to mature at an accelerated rate, compared to my peers. I had experienced a massive upheaval in a way of living I had become accustomed to and by the age of 13, I had severed the ties with my biological family, including my mother. Although the constant shift in environment, people, culture and religious practices proved difficult to adapt to—as well as the multitude of mischaracterizations and instances of criminalization that I encountered–I was persevered and excelled in the academic and social organizational realm. Despite sharing a vastly different background from my colleagues, school was where I felt most comfortable. I enveloped myself in my studies and school-related activities in an attempt to distance myself from my ever-shifting home life and the realities that accompanied the plethora of mattresses I temporarily called my own. I joined college-bound programs, participated in advanced programs, and joined the associated student government—most notably becoming vice president of my class for two years. My academics, coupled with the support of my instructor-mentors and a few remarkable social workers, paved an escape route from the unstable and detrimental (in some aspects) system I was kept in. I emancipated from foster care at the age of 18, and along with the newfound challenges of adulthood, I was accepted to the University of California, Riverside. At UCR, I have received an experience that cannot be paralleled. Aside from a stellar academic record, I joined both the Guardian Scholars program and a fraternity called Phi Kappa Sigma. I have cultivated many ties that will remain strong for many years to come. I have also used my free time to volunteer for programs/organizations, such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Special Olympics, Keep Riverside Clean and Beautiful (and the Adopt-a-Street program), MESA day, and many others. I graduated with honors, on time and with my colleagues, in the spring of 2016 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Sociology. In retrospect, the experiences that I had in the foster care system, while adverse and challenging, have widened my horizon of experience and allowed for my resilience to wake. I am also grateful for the few individuals who have truly propelled my direction in life through necessary advice and removing me from toxic environments. My name is George Garcia, and although my story is unique, I share many similarities with a multitude of other former and current foster youth.