SACRAMENTO – Only four percent of foster youth graduate from college, but that statistic didn’t stop one man from beating the odds, even during a pandemic.
Justin Martinez has been in and out of the foster care system since he was 15-years-old and his path to receiving a diploma did not come easily, in fact, college wasn’t even on his agenda.
However, when Martinez was 24-years-old, he got involved with the Guardian Scholars Program, a statewide initiative that helps foster youth complete college. Martinez says this program gave him the motivation to make it to graduation day.
“Current and former foster youth are at high risk, they’re very unlikely to graduate from college, only four percent of former and current foster youth graduate nationwide,” he said.
Martinez is the first in his family to graduate from college. He says not even a global pandemic could stop him from becoming a 2020 college graduate.
“Today is all about soaking it up and I feel incredible, I feel powerful, I feel like there’s nothing that’s impossible,” Martinez said.
He graduated alongside 10 other former foster care children who were helped through the Guardian Scholars Program. Martinez was proud to be the keynote speaker.
“Anything is possible when there are people out here who help and want to support you and help you succeed and achieve your dreams,” Martinez said.
His next step is to get a master’s degree in social work and to advocate for kids who grew up just like him. Martinez hopes that through his own personal growth and education, he’ll inspire other children in the foster care system to someday become college graduates as well.