September 2, 2022

Learning a New Language: JBAY Helps Foster Youth Become Fluent in Education

Learning a New Language: JBAY Helps Foster Youth Become Fluent in Education

For many foster youth, the path to higher education is like navigating a completely foreign language. Thanks to JBAY, Allyson Olivas has become more fluent in this aspect of her life. 

Allyson is a student at Hartnell College in Salinas. She recently received $100 from the Burton Critical Needs and Opportunity Fund to help her purchase books and other school supplies. 

John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) established the Critical Needs and Opportunity Fund to help young people like Allyson. This year, the program will provide direct financial assistance to an estimated 1,000 young people who have been in foster care or experienced homelessness.

Born in Salinas, Allyson entered foster care at the age of 13. She became pregnant and then hopped back and forth between different group homes in Watsonville and Redwood City. Thinking about her future, she made the difficult decision to have an abortion. “It was hard having to take care of myself, especially since I was so young. How was I going to take care of someone else?”

Above all else, Allyson wanted to focus on her education. Although the group homes she stayed in were often disruptive environments, she remained motivated to succeed in school. Most importantly, she knew that she needed to communicate with her teachers and do her homework–so that’s what she did. She graduated high school with a 3.6 GPA and earned the Student of the Year award.

Going into community college, she had no idea what programs were offered, or which ones she was qualified for. After taking initiative and doing her own research, she enrolled as an English and Spanish double major, finding interest in learning how to effectively communicate across both languages.

The Critical Needs and Opportunity Fund helped Allyson stay on top of her classes. “My financial aid and scholarships are split between the fall and spring semesters, and sometimes it takes a while to receive the money. This funding allowed me to get immediate help to pay for  books and supplies.”

Allyson plans to graduate in December and then transfer to California State University, Monterey Bay in the spring of 2023. After completing her Bachelor’s degree, she hopes to work as a translator, ideally at the Monterey County Superior Court or at local clinics. 

With her fluency in two languages, and also in higher education, she looks forward to helping others in need and breaking down barriers of communication in the future.