2019 SCHOLAR SPOTLIGHT: J.H.

As I see it, my battles have served a purpose, for the pain and difficulty have all prepared me for this period of my life where I can work towards becoming someone who can make a difference for others.”

Removed from her mother’s care at the age of eleven after substantiated claims of abuse in the home, Rezvan Scholar J.H. recalls that more upsetting than her placement in foster care was her parents’ seeming lack of interest in bettering themselves sufficient to regain custody. “My most significant challenge was the fact that I was living the life of an orphan, even though my parents were both alive,” she reflects. “My childhood ended early because I lacked parental figures.” Although a local family member agreed to take her in and raise her alongside her own children, her life under her care was filled with pain, rejection and isolation, as she was constantly reminded that she was not a “real” member of the family. After many years of therapy and at the urging of her social worker, she agreed to be removed from home yet again and go back into the foster care system at large. 

Rather than sinking under the weight of a sense of abandonment and rejection,  J.H. made a decision to become proactive in her own healing by committing herself to learning a variety of coping methods and self-improvement strategies – and with time and dedication, her efforts paid off. An AP-level student through and through, J.H’’s academic performance remained impeccable in spite of her difficult circumstances, and a love for enrichment programs and group outreach efforts found her active in community service, MESA, public speaking and more. She graduated from high school with a 4.4 GPA and an unshakable determination to become involved in education administration so that as an adult professional, she can work to address and remediate what she feels are troubled processes in education policy. And ever one to focus on the positive, J.H. is intent on becoming a foster parent herself one day.

Today J.H. is a freshman at the University of California at Los Angeles majoring in History. “As I see it, my battles have served a purpose,” she reflects, “ for the pain and difficulty have all prepared me for this period of my life where I can work towards becoming someone who can make a difference for others.” 

2019 SCHOLAR SPOTLIGHT: E.G.

“I push and push beyond my limits because in my heart, I know that I can do anything I set out for. I want to inspire people like me, and give them hope. I want to pay it forward.”

Rezvan Scholar E.G.’s parents both died of complications from alcohol and drug addiction during her childhood and teenage years. An only child without local extended family, she found herself completely orphaned and on her own at the age of sixteen. 

With no adult to help her navigate the chaos, trauma and grief resulting from the untimely death of both of her parents, E.G. found solace in schoolwork. “I made whatever sacrifices I needed to in order to ensure that I passed my classes with A’s,” she says of that time. “My education was the only thing that kept me going in life besides my friends. Knowledge became my passion.” 

When a caring but distant relative stepped in and offered to take her in during her junior year, E.G. was hopeful – but just a few short months later, she determined that her level of independence and academic ambition were not well-suited to a custodial environment with an early evening curfew, as many high school clubs and organizations met into nighttime. In a terrifically uncommon move, E.G. petitioned the court to grant her ‘emancipated minor’ status, on the grounds that her self-directed, carefully mapped life plan required full autonomy. Her presentation was so compelling that she won. 

Wasting no time, she set out to become the parent that she had always been missing. Despite an incredibly full schedule that included two part-time jobs and a courseload made up of primarily AP classes, E.G. graduated at the top of her senior class with a 4.5 GPA and an unbroken resolve to be the sole creator of her own success. 

Today E.G. is a freshman at UC Berkeley studying molecular biology. “I push and push beyond my limits because in my heart, I know that I can do anything I set out for,” she says proudly. “I want to inspire people like me, and give them hope. I want to pay it forward.”

2018 Scholar Spotlight: L.D.

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is your strength,’ said Gandhi, and my strength came from embracing my journey as a foster youth, instead of being ashamed or succumbing to its connotation…I am breaking the cycle.”

Characterized as “mature beyond her years” by teachers, advisors, and Rezvan Foundation Board members alike, 2018 Rezvan Foundation Scholarship Awardee L.D. graduated from high school with a 4.1 GPA and an unstoppable drive to be a motivating force to other students in the foster care system.

Although an unsafe and unreliable family unit meant that many of her childhood years were spent parenting her younger sister while being moved from one foster home to the next, L.D. decided early on that the best use of her focus in an otherwise difficult upbringing, was school.

“My childhood was not made up of the best experiences,” L.D. shared, “but education was my escape, and it soon became my strength….my motivation to keep on living and experiencing life…I value learning and using knowledge to become a better human.”

L.D. maintained a significantly active role in high school by participating in clubs, leadership organizations, competitions, community service and being on the Principal’s Honor Roll, and became known for her dedication, determination, and ability to focus.

The first person to go to a four-year University in her family, L.D. attends The University of California at Davis. In addition to working diligently towards a professional career as a Graphic Designer, L.D. intends to start a year-round mentorship program for foster youth and teens, so that they will always have someone there to cheer them on throughout their own development.

“It is difficult to find the motivation and encouragement to push yourself through life the way I did,” says L.D., “but I did it, and continue to push for more opportunities and successes.”

2018 Scholar Spotlight: E.M.

“I am an original. Despite struggling in dozens of homes, I succeeded in school. Despite the obstacles of foster care, I became a community leader, helping others in the system to find mentors and families. Despite society labeling me, I broke free of stereotypes and will have a successful life. I am a re-creation.”

Having lived in twenty-seven different foster homes and attended eighteen different schools by the time she and her adopted mother made a connection when she was eleven, 2018 Rezvan Foundation Scholarship Awardee E.M. is a shining example of resilience.

Labeled “unadoptable” at an early age by social workers within the foster care system, E.M. ultimately chose to put all of her energy into overcoming multiple years of trauma and instability by devoting herself to her educational and personal development.

This meant volunteering and holding important positions in organizations for foster youth, the elderly, and even shelter animals – all while serving on student government, playing on her high school volleyball team, and keeping up with a rigorous academic schedule.

As the second member of her birth family to graduate from high school and the first family member to go to college, E.M. is celebrating two major academic milestones.

E.M. graduated from high school at the top of the Honor Roll a semester early. As one of her advisors stated to The Rezvan Foundation, “While other youths may transcend the difficult but less unusual challenges of childhood, such as divorce, bullying or learning disabilities, E.M. has transcended the unimaginable…for someone who has endured E.M.’s early years, these achievements are astonishing.”

True to her reputation as a loving, empathetic person deeply motivated to help others, E.M. majors in Social Justice at Ohio Wesleyan University so that she can become an attorney to represent foster youth. “I will be a new type of advocate,” says E.M. “It is almost impossible for kids to self-advocate from a place where they are controlled and have no power…I will empower my clients to take good paths and make good choices. I will share my experience with my clients and inspire them to beat the odds, too…I want to change the negative expectations that keep foster youth down. I want to someday help create other originals, like me.”

2017 Scholar Spotlight: C.B.

“All my life, I have visualized success. As a child, success was living in a mansion with six cars. Today, I visualize success as…working in a job that I love, with a supportive family. Someday I hope to make an impact on the lives of young children the way that many of my teachers supported and impacted mine while growing up.” 

Although 2017 Scholarship Awardee C.B. was adopted by a loving set of grandparents at the age of ten, a multitude of traumatic experiences beforehand and several years of being moved from one foster home to the next made for a very difficult transition. Because the majority of her young childhood was spent playing the role of full-time parent to her five younger siblings, all matters related to her education were of secondary concern. “I was clueless,” she recalls. “I really hadn’t learned anything before sixth grade, because my focus was on taking care of my siblings. No one had ever shown interest in my education before my grandparents.”

Years of remedial tutoring and attentive educational coaching put C.B. back on track academically, but she still wasn’t spared the pain of social isolation that came with an inability to connect with other children. “I was terribly lonely,” she writes of that time. “I had no one to turn to, until one day a teacher…asked me to walk with her to her classroom, because she noticed that I always sat alone. After that morning, I finally felt I had somebody. I would go to her classroom any chance I could, because she was always open to listening and giving me advice. I found at least one teacher like this at every school I attended.”

These newfound, supportive connections spurred on her confidence, and over time she began to make friends, shift more and more of her focus to her education, and volunteer for local outreach organizations. Led by an uncompromising will to succeed in the face of adversity, C.B. graduated from high school at the top of her class with a 4.0 GPA after having spent seven consecutive semesters on the Honor Roll. Our first Rezvan Foundation Scholarship Awardee, she is now a sophomore at Fresno State University studying Education. “I have transformed into a strong, independent young lady,” she shares with pride. “I want to be the teacher that students can depend on when they have no one. I will make an impact.”