CLC Client's Path to Stanford

December 01, 2013

by Pamela Wright, Esq.

“Open up to dreaming big. A part of dreaming big is surrounding yourself with people who see your value and care about you.” –Alina

One Friday after a busy day in court I had a wonderful conversation with Alina who’s a foster youth and one of my clients at Children’s Law Center. Alina graduated from high school this year and will be starting Stanford University at the end of September. She’ll be studying earth systems, a subject that includes environmental science and sustainable development, on Stanford’s beautiful campus in Palo Alto. Since finding out that Alina got accepted to Stanford I have shared her good news and seen it lighten up the faces of teens in the foster care system. Her success has given them hope and a vision that they can go to college one day too!

In high school Alina’s favorite subjects were English, History and Environmental Science. She loves reading and her favorite author is John Steinbeck. Her favorite books are East of Eden by John Steinbeck and Sophie’s Choice by William Styron which she described as very motivational and impactful. I’m so excited that Alina gets to attend Stanford and pursue her big dreams!

When I asked Alina why she was an Earth Systems major she said, “I like environmental science because it’s applicable to living in Los Angeles.” She also shared that “environmental dilemmas are applicable to Los Angeles county and my home. I care about the place I live in and the impact it has on my life.” I definitely look forward to hearing about Alina’s great contribution to our environment and community as a result of her studies at Stanford and beyond!

I had a wonderful conversation with Alina about her path to Stanford. Below you’ll get a glimpse into her amazing mind. Alina’s remarks are in quotes.

On Dreaming: “My largest struggle was underestimating what I could do. I limited my dream for a long time.” “I allowed myself to accept the challenge & dream BIG!” “I wanna go to grad school or law school after I graduate from Stanford. I could go to Columbia to get a Ph.D. in sustainable development or to Harvard Law School. I also wanna study abroad at Oxford. I have Big Dreams!”

On Applying to Stanford: “A few years ago I wouldn’t have applied to Stanford.” “Be open to the opportunities even if you think you’re being insane. You might achieve it!”

On Believing In Yourself: “I had some teachers who saw I had some level of skill. They encouraged me to work on it and cultivate it, especially with writing. They got me to BELIEVE. I didn’t have too much confidence at the beginning of high school. “ “I cultivated a talent that I thought might be of use and had significant value.” “I did a lot of writing for AP history. I always enjoyed reading books. My creative writing class was a game changer for me! My creative writing teacher refined my eye for my craft. “

On 8th Grade: “My 8th grade teacher had us write a letter to ourselves and she mailed it to us at the end of our senior year in high school. At that time I felt…1) I had no idea what I was interested in, 2)I wasn’t enthusiastic about it, 3)I didn’t think I was worth it,  4) I didn’t know what I wanted out of life,  5) I didn’t think I had a particular talent.”

On Starting High School: “I was a music-loving hippie into green culture.”

On Being Independent: “I was put in foster care when I was in the 11th grade.” “Things opened up for me after I moved out of my parents’ home.” “My parents were against higher forms of education for me based on their religion.” “I was told, ‘you’re not going to college because you’re a woman.’” “When I left home I wasn’t under parental control and everything was my decision. I took my academic performance seriously and wanted to get out of the loop. I wanted to be independent.” “I had to make a name and life for myself. “ “I would try hard so I could get a job and be self-sufficient.” 

Alina’s 5 Success Tips for Foster Youth Who Wanna Go to College 

Tip #1 Open Up to Dreaming Big

A part of dreaming big is surrounding yourself with people who see your value, support you and care about you.

Tip #2 Find Your Niche

Try a lot of crazy things and extracurricular activities. Get involved with different groups and organizations. Also, try new things because maybe you’ll be inspired!

Tip #3 Surround Yourself with People Who Will Support You

Find people who will support your dreams.

Tip #4 Make Yourself See the Value of Each Homework Assignment

I’m a master procrastinator so I had to make my homework relevant to me.

Here’s some questions you can ask yourself…

-What can I do with this?

-How does this apply to the real world?

-What does it mean?

I have to understand the fundamental application of the assignment or subject. Find something to make it interesting so the assignment isn’t a bore or tedious. Otherwise, you don’t get anything out of it and why do it. Make each subject have value which may mean doing extra research to find a more interesting application for you. You just have to make it relevant to you and what you care about.

Tip #5 Don’t Forget to Be Awesome!