Beyond Emancipation


roberta At age 14, after one long year of living in five foster/group homes, Roberta Rodriguez was welcomed into a foster home with a loving family who supported and encouraged her. Before she entered foster care, Rodriguez grew up in a family that was verbally and physically abusive and they did not value educated women. Her parents died when she was young and she went to live with her grandparents in Mexico before returning to the United States with her uncles at the age of 12.

“I was alone, my family didn’t help me at all,” says Rodriguez.

“They never taught me how to have a good life, how to do my best and get the best from me. I didn’t really learn anything good from my family,” she added.

roberta_photostrip Rodriguez didn’t start learning English until she entered foster care, so high school was a huge challenge and she had to try extra hard to do well in school and pass her classes. However with support from her new family, social worker, school staff and friends, not only was she was the first in her biological family to graduate high school, Rodriguez was accepted into all four universities she applied to. She decided to attend California State East Bay University in Hayward, California.

Even though she came from a supportive foster family, college proved to be very challenging and Rodriguez had to drop out within the first year. It was a hard choice, but knowing when to change course is part of staying on the path of success. She was having a hard time finding work and started to get depressed.

“I was looking for help,” says Rodriguez. The EOP office at her school told her about Beyond Emancipation (B:E). She heard about an internship program at the Fresh Start Café from Alison Traina, a B:E Education and Employment Specialist. She applied and thought it was a great opportunity to learn job skills.

roberta_job “The café was really good because I didn’t have any experience and they gave me a chance,” says Rodriguez.

She says she learned so much and values all the skills she learned on the job from her café manager, Gwen Johnson. Rodriguez says one of the most important things she has learned is that you cannot take things personally and you must always be professional no matter what. Even before starting working at the café, Rodriguez said she learned many tips and techniques on how to search for employment and how to follow through with applications and the interview process from Traina.