By everyone’s quick assessment, I’m considered a success story. My biography makes for a nice catchy tagline: Former foster youth and sexual abuse survivor bred in poverty overcomes all odds by graduating from college and publishing a book.
While this tagline rings true, it has come at a great cost that I fear I will be paying for a least another decade or so. Growing up, everyone and I do mean everyone, told me that if I was ever going to succeed in life, I needed to go to college. Even my immediate relatives, none of whom graduated from college – let alone high school for some – showed me by example that if I didn’t want to end up like them, I needed to go all the way with my education. So, I did and it was extremely difficult.
I need to stop here for a moment to relay the level of difficulty involved with me graduating college: it was very, very challenging. I had to suppress all natural urges to just cut and run and quit to engage in self-destructive behaviors. Financially, emotionally and mentally, I had to support myself to get through and I struggled daily for many years to complete my education.
A large part of the reason why it was hard for me to graduate college was due to all the high schools I bounced around while in foster care. It took years of extra remedial courses and tutoring to help assist me in graduating. I also had almost no emotional support.
But eventually, somehow, I did it. I graduated from California State University, Sacramento with honors in 2003 and got my Masters in English from Mills College in 2005. I not only graduated with a 3.93 GPA, but I was the graduate ceremony commencement speaker.
When I was in college, there was little in the way of government education assistance for former “wards of the state,” including the Chaffee Educational and Training Vouchers. No one in my college circles could help because former foster youth rarely went to school for more than a couple semesters. Since the internet was in its infancy when I was a freshmen, I spent many weeks in the various libraries reading through every “Cash for College” resource books I could get my hands on. I was able to net $1,000 from that search.
Signing promissory notes in those loan class orientations gave me anxiety and pause, but I saw no other alternative. I was determined to go to college. I was young, idealistic, and hopeful that if I worked hard enough, I’d get a job that would pay down the loans in seven to ten years’ time and that would be that.
Well, it’s almost been a decade since I graduated and I’ve only managed to pay a third of my debt down despite paying on a regular basis. I’m not going to lie.
Sometimes I regret going to college. I would have a debt-free life right now if I didn’t go, and the degrees I have did not net the desired result. But it’s too late now.
If I could go back, I would have gone to a community college before transferring or sticking with an associate degree. Still, we do the best we can with the information we have and I had no one to guide me then. But that was then, and this is now.
Now I’m in debt. My thesis led to a book that I’m presently working on turning into a screenplay (which will cost me nothing but time on evenings and weekends). Hopefully, the screenplay will be optioned so I can pay my loans off.
Until then, every dollar I earn on my memoir will go toward my loans. My dream has always been to write a book on my life and I’ve achieved it at all costs. Now, I’m using my book to pay down the cost of achieving my dream.
To help support Georgette reach her goal of paying off her student loan debt, please buy a copy of her book, “Foster Girl, A Memoir” on Amazon or by submitting a donation. Every month, she will post a copy of her loan statements on the GoFundMe site to show the efforts of your generosity. Thank you.
Written By Chronicle Of Social Change
In Debt For Life: One Former Foster Youth’s Cost Graduating College was originally published @ The Chronicle of Social Change and has been syndicated with permission.
Photo by 401(K) 2013
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Firstly, congratulations on your degree and book. No matter the circumstances, you are an inspiration for others in the same situation. With that said, I am one of the “others.” I had a very similar background to you. I was beaten, starved, neglected, molested, and homeless for a portion of my life. If that wasn’t enough, kids at school made my life a living hell because I smelled funny and wore what clothes I could find without holes in them. I too am in debt from my first degree. The rub in our similar situation is that I recently graduated with my degree. I am 24 years old and a part of the generation of “no child left behind.” Yet, I was never informed that I could get money for college, health insurance, dental, etc. Those services were there for me, but I was part of the 20% that does get left behind. How is it from your time to mine this is still happening to foster care children? That should be your next book. I hope that you never stop believing in your dreams. Because people like you never give up, I never give up. Show the way, Georgette.