Undergraduates: O - Z

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Deja Packard

My name is Deja Packard. I am 20 years old and I grew up in the county of Alameda in Oakland California. I lived with my aunt pretty much my whole life. My older brother and I moved in with her after our mom pasted away when I was 7. We lived there along with her four other children. My experience there was not always as good as it should have been but I made it work. I kept myself busy most of the time with school work and used education as a way to escape and better myself.

In my free time when I'm not doing homework I like to talk on the phone, watch movies or just sit around and laugh with friends. Friendship is very important to me as well as family. Without some of my family and the friends I made over the years I don’t think I would have had the strength to get to where I am now. There were so many times I just wanted to say forget it but I would ask myself, “Do I really just want to give up and settle for less?” Some of the people in my family helped by showing me what I didn't want to become. I knew that I wanted to be better than that.

If I continue to work hard I will be the first in my family to graduate from a four year college which is one of the things I think of to keep myself motivated. My major is Pre-nursing and my career goal is to become a pediatrician. I love kids and I like the joy I get when I solve problems. Also I would like to know how the human body works and be able to learn how to diagnose patients.

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Christal Rivera

Grade: Junior
Major: Liberal Studies

My name is Christal Rivera and I am 20 years old. At the age of nine I was placed into foster care and stayed in the system until the age of 18 when I emancipated. My experience while in foster care and with my care taker was not a pleasant one. She would always say that I would never amount to anything and that I would never make it to college. Even though she tried to put me down I am proud to say that I have accomplished more than what she thought.

I am pleased to say that I just graduated from Diablo Valley College on May 25, 2007 with an A.A in general education. Also, I am the first in my family to go on to college as most of my family went into the military. Now I am working on getting my B.A. in liberal studies at CSU, East Bay and with all of the help and support that I'm receiving from Renaissance Scholars I know that I will accomplish my goals and dreams.

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Donte Rodgers

Grade: Sophomore
Major: Undeclared

Hi name is Donte Rodgers-Turner. I graduated from Life Academy of Health and Bio- Science. Now I am a first-time freshman at CSU, Eastbay. I never really thought I would end up in college but misconceptions of life do change in a period of time. At the age of 11 I entered the foster care system. It was kind of hard going through life without the actual folks who granted me the gift of life.

When you meet people who have treated you like one of their own child instead of foster child things that were hard in life can ease the pressure on you. I grew up in Oakland and could have easily followed the negative influences that I was faced with. Instead, I took an interest in things that would best benefit me in life. Like taking full charge of my education and becoming more than what society expects of an average minority. I find most people really never know the actual pain we face as foster youth but they are so quick to judge us.

Since I joined Renaissance Scholars, I noticed that there are people who are willing to help the emancipated youth of the foster care system. Renaissance Scholars has been a wonderful support source for me because I have been able to open up to people when I didn't want to. Being in Renaissance Scholars means that I'm never alone even when I feel like the world I live in has turned its back on me.

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Clarresha Slay

My name is Clarresha Slay and I am an 18-year-old college freshman at Cal State East Bay. Neither of my parents ever took a part in raising me. Instead I was passed around to all my aunts until one of them took on the role of parent. Being raised by my aunt was not that bad until I entered my teenage years and began high school. Through those four years of my life I would never be the same. I had to grow up real fast and strive for my education because that was all I had. Living with my Aunt I faced a lot of abuse and was placed in a foster home. Being in a foster home was not as bad as being with my aunt, but it was still hard. Going to college will be very hard being a foster youth but I have been through so much I believe I can make it with the Renaissance Scholars program helping me along the way.

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Khristyna Smith

My name is Khristyna Smith and I am 18-years-old. I am currently an undergraduate at Cal State East Bay. My major is pre-nursing and my minor is interpretation in American Sign Language. I currently stay on campus in Pioneer Heights. I am a former foster youth and have been in foster care for the past 10 years. I graduated from Olympic High School in Concord. I like helping people that are trying to help themselves, so I hope to one day work somewhere in the medical field and take care of foster youth.

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Iris Sosa

Grade: Junior
Major: Criminal Justice Administration
Option: Law Enforcement Administration

My name is Iris Sosa. I enter the foster care system at the age of 15. I remember it being a very scary situation. When I first got to my group home it was night time and it was very dark. The house was surrounded by lots of trees and it looked very scary. Having to share a room with a stranger I knew nothing of was the worst part because every other month I had to share my room with a stranger. There were about 10 girls in my group home. After a while I felt more comfortable, but believe me there is nothing like home. Regardless of how your parents are, it’s better to deal with one or two people than twenty strangers.

My group home was located in Oakland, so I had to wake up at five in the morning to catch a bus to my high school in Alameda. Sometimes it was so dark and cold, but because I felt that the situation I was in couldn’t crush my dreams, I wouldn’t complain and I actually felt proud of myself for making such sacrifices. When I graduated from high school and got my admittance letter to Cal State East Bay and other schools I felt even more proud because I knew that no matter what I will succeed in life.

I started my freshman year in 2003 at Cal State East Bay. I had so many obstacles but after all of my struggles I’m still here and I will graduate. Don’t get me wrong sometimes I do feel like giving up because it’s so hard to work, go to school and come home and take care of my 18 month baby girl. My Major is Criminal Justice with a Minor in Political Science. The reason I chose them is because I love to help people and in the future I plan to become a lawyer. I plan to work in family law and assist children and families find the right path. I want to show them that I was in their situation and I made it. I want to be an example for my daughter and other foster kids.

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Kim Steele

Grade: Freshman
Major: Criminal Justice Administration

Hi, my name is Kim Steele and I´m 18 years old. My father left when I was young and I lived with my mother for the first 12 years of my life before entering foster care. During that time, I lived in two different homes and went to seven different schools. The last home that I lived in was the best home that a foster youth could ask for.

I graduated from 186th Street School, Walton Middle School, and Compton High School. I am currently attending CSU East Bay and working on making the future brighter for me and my family. I don´t know what I´m going to major in because I am interested in so many different things.

I have gained so much knowledge from my life experiences that people who know me always ask for my advice. The one thing I want to do is really find myself and my passion in college. What I already know is that my name is Kim Steele. I´m a strong, intelligent, independent, friendly and very outspoken young woman who has respect for herself and others.

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Capricia Taggart

Hello, my name is Capricia Taggart and I am the youngest of three siblings. I'm the first one in my immediate family to attend a four year college straight out of high school and I'm also the first one in my immediate family to graduate from high school on time.

Unfortunately, my family never took their opportunities seriously and let other things beside school cloud their minds. I was placed into the system at the early age of six months due to both of my parents being incarcerated. I lived in the custody of my grandmother and my uncle on my father’s side of the family.

I was later removed from their care at the age of seven due to physical abuse. I was then place in the foster care system where I lived in three different homes. The first two I was removed from due to lack of parental guidance. Then I stayed at my third placement for six years where I was treated like the outcast. While in foster care I did a lot of crying myself to sleep at night. Now that I'm a college student and a Renaissance Scholar, I know life won’t be perfect but I know I'm on the right track to a positive future.

Photo of LeAnn Tobor

LeAnn Tobor

Grade: Freshman
Major: Criminal Justice Administration

My Name is LeAnn Tobor, I am 20 years of age, and I attend California State University, East Bay where I plan to obtain my B.S. in Criminal Justice. I am a graduate of Heald Business College of San Francisco where I received my A.A. Degree in Business Administration.

I am part-time worker and full-time student, and I've worked very hard to get where I am from where I started. A few things that describe me and the person I am are: active, cheerful, positive, spontaneous, and organized, poetry, singing, adventurous, acting, outgoing, and I enjoy working and being around all people of diverse backgrounds. I enjoy everyone and being a part of the very welcoming environment of the Renaissance Scholars Program.

Photo of Donnisha Udo-Okon

Donnisha Udo-Okon

Hello, my name is Donnisha Udo-Okon. I am 18 years old and a freshmen at Cal State East Bay. Born and raised in a family that has been hit with many hardships, I sit back and think about how I made it this far in my life. I am the only girl in a family that includes four boys and both parents. I consider myself to be fortunate because many of my friends are only living with one of their parents. When my family was together I felt a strong sense of security because of the togetherness. We did everything together, whether it was going to the doctor, or going to the grocery store. My mom was the heart and soul of my family as well as my best friend. My mom motivated me to go to church, join the junior choir, usher board, as well as the praise dance team. In addition to those activities she encouraged me to get baptized. One day she came home after a hard day of work and she passed out while she was in the bathroom. She was later diagnosed with a very serious form of cancer. She later died and this tore my family apart.

After the death of my mom, my four brothers and I were all placed in protective custody, or foster care in separate homes. I had never been separated from my brothers for that long and it made me sad because my mother had always taught us to stick together. In December 2000, my aunt and uncle got custody of my brothers and me. It was a sacrifice that she and her family were willing to make. Because I had seen all of the sacrifices that others made for me I decided to take my education seriously and make it pay off.

For me personally, college is a huge achievement and challenge that I'm willing to take. I want to do it for my family as well as myself. Being in a society where people who graduate from high school have so many employment limitations has made me appreciate my education because you need a college degree in order to make a decent living. Going to college will make it so that I am able to have a better life, become more educated, and study a field which I am passionate and interested about: science. Science is the main field that is taking the world by storm-- whether it's psychology or physiology. I want to be affiliated with something where I am changing the world. I really want to become a forensic scientist or do something around that field because I want to help the people who want to find their missing child or spouse.

I applied to CSU East Bay especially because of the Renaissance Scholars Program. Renaissance Scholars at will be one of my guiding tools to get me to my future career. The program offers plenty of opportunities to get involve with school activities in a positive and meaningful way. It will help me face my fears of transitioning to the college lifestyle. I'm also glad the program provides opportunities for housing, counseling, and in many other ways that will make my freshman year in college more smooth and enjoyable.

The Summer Bridge program allowed me to live my dream of going to college and living in a dorm, attending the crowded lecture halls that my brother and cousin always talked about ever since I was a junior in high school. Summer Bridge helped me make that life-changing transition from high school to college, allowing me to preview what college life would be like and meet some of the administrators and other freshmen. It also assisted me with adjusting to the academic style of the college as well as the teaching styles of professors. I know I will be a great candidate for Renaissance Scholars because I am extremely passionate and dedicated to any and every thing I do. I am excited to be in this program because I want to be a positive role model for all of the youth, who are currently in foster care and in situations that forcesthem to believe that they can't accomplish anything. I know that being in this program will have a major impact on my life as a student and a human being.

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