Despite having a difficult childhood, Barbara leaped over life’s hurdles by facing her challenges with courage and determination. Between juggling childcare, education, financial stability, she recently graduated from CSU East bay with a Masters in Social Work.
Next month, in April, she will publish her very own book which documents her journey through the foster care system. Her book utilizes her own experiences as a means to empower, advise and encourage her readers, especially the youth, to hold onto their dreams. Barbara aspires to shine as a great role model to her daughter and other foster youth in the community.
Barbara learned to develop a strong sense of herself at a young age. She had to. Barbara and her four siblings were raised in Oakland by their cousin. Their mother struggled with drug addiction, and “it wasn’t a safe environment,” says Barbara. While her cousin furnished the basics, “a roof over my head and food on the table,” she notes, “there were a lot of things like love and support that were missing.”
Barbara credits the Alameda County Independent Living Skills Program (ILSP) and Beyond Emancipation as the catalysts that allowed her to define her identity. Although it was “hurtful” not knowing who her biological parents were, “I started to accept my identity when I took ILSP classes with youth who have similar backgrounds.”
She graduated from ILSP in 2006, determined to attend college. “B:E supported me when I really needed the help doing my college career,” she says. With additional support from her boyfriend of six years and two close friends whom she says are “like a team” for her, Barbara recently graduated from San Francisco State with a degree in Criminal Justice.
Now she mentors her younger sisters – one of whom is attending Sacramento State – and is raising a 16 month old daughter to boot. The future looks bright, mostly because of her positive attitude: “I think I’m the most important person to myself because I have a lot of self-confidence and self-determination.”